Sumayya and Ben’s First Dance: Tango in Italy

Sumayya and Ben, dancing their tango routine together on their wedding day.

We love the sound of wedding bells at City Academy, especially when our students are involved, so we caught up with tango dancers Sumayya and Ben, who celebrated their big day together in Italy recently.

As is the case with many couples joining our partner dance classes, Ben and Sumayya came along to the course with the excitement of preparing for their First Dance at their wedding on the horizon. They tell us about their experiences learning tango together, how it went on the day, and whether they were able to wow their guests with their new found milonga skills.

Had you taken any dance classes before doing our tango courses?

Sumayya: I had danced salsa for several years, so I wasn’t particularly nervous when we signed up, just really keen to try what looked like a beautiful dance.

Ben: I had never taken dance classes before. I was slightly apprehensive going along for the first time, but the format of the beginners course definitely helped to put me at ease.

How did you find the classes?

Sumayya: They were exciting! It was fun to have this thing that we were putting together to share with our friends and family. At the end the last class (before we left for our wedding), we received a card from all the others students, which was a lovely gesture!

Ben: It was great to have something to aim for, but I saw it as an opportunity to make use of what we’d learnt rather than a performance to be scared of. This meant that I was able to enjoy learning new techniques and it gave me the determination to practise!

Winston was lovely…and attentive to the fact that we were working towards a goal.

Sumayya-and-ben-crop-2Your tutor was Winston. How did he help you develop your tango skills?

Sumayya: Winston was lovely, and really attentive to the fact that we were working towards a particular goal. We did a few private classes with him where he helped develop the bulk of the choreography.

During the regular classes, he would make sure to go over what we had covered in the private classes, so that we could consolidate it. When the class content wasn’t related to what we were doing in our wedding dance, he would suggest what we might like to do instead. All this, added to just how personable he is, made us really pleased to have had him as our teacher.

Ben: Winston is a great teacher. He makes time to see individuals in his class, gives specific helpful tips to improve your own style, but pushes the class to learn.

He was happy for us to dance together, but encouraged us to change partners which I found very beneficial once I had the confidence to do so. It means you don’t fall into adapting to someone else’s habits, but need to improve all round.

Tell us a bit about the wedding day.

Sumayya: We married in an old building in a tiny village in Italy (and when I say tiny, I mean there’s only the castle where we married, the church next to it, and approximately 10 houses!). It was all very pretty and also quite a relaxed day, despite all the excitement.

Also, the Italians do cake like nobody else. I have never in my life seen a whole wedding cake finished by the end of the wedding – until ours. It did help that we danced until 4am, though, and I’m pretty sure a couple of people stole a slice for breakfast!

Ben: Enjoyable and relaxed, surrounded by our favourite people in a lovely corner of the world. Great food, great scenery, great weather and great company; not much more one can ask for.

Our dining table sat against the wall for weeks as we claimed the kitchen to practise.

We’re dying to hear about the moment of truth! How did it go?

Sumayya: We danced to a song by an Argentinian artist, although it was not a traditional tango; it was quite soft, and it ended up lending itself very well to the old stone walls and candlelight. One of the guests cried watching it (in a good way – I hope!), and we ended to rapturous applause, so I think it went well. Despite the fact that we’d only had one opportunity to practice on the actual dance floor, it went off pretty smoothly. There were the moments, of course, where we spent several seconds dancing in the shadows, or with our backs to the audience, but it didn’t matter – it’s the day when your loved ones will overlook pretty much any mistakes you make!

Ben: I hadn’t said much to people about us learning tango, so I think it came as a surprise to many. There seemed of be a lot of appreciation, and indeed a few people expressing an interest in learning it on the grounds that if I can do it, then it can’t be that hard!

sumayya-and-ben-crop-3What advice would you give to a couple who are nervous about their first dance?

Sumayya: A little bit of nervousness is good! It keeps you alert! Any more than that is unnecessary; your friends and family are there to celebrate you, and they aren’t going to care if you get a step or two wrong, if they even notice at all. We made a conscious decision that we weren’t going to take on any more stress than absolutely necessary, whether it be about the wrong shade of flower, or the wrong angle on a move – it’s too expensive a party to throw and then stress about, rather than enjoy!

Having said that, if you are signing up to a dance course to prepare for you first dance, do practice on your own, not just at the classes. Just 15 minutes per evening will make a really big difference, both to your performance and to your confidence. Our poor dining table sat against the wall for weeks as we claimed the kitchen to practise.

Ben: You’ll never have a more sympathetic crowd. Just enjoy it!

I never thought I’d own a pair of dance shoes…now, weirdly, I have “dance sneakers” on order…

What do you enjoy most about Tango? Will you be sticking with it?

Sumayya: I love the elegance of it, and the mix of musicality and rigour. The music is lovely to dance to, and so laden with history. At the same time, you need to strike the balance between listening to it and following the lead. If you choose to dance with others in the class (which is great fun, and very sociable), you also learn to adapt to different leads. We are definitely carrying on with it.

Ben: I’m definitely sticking with it; in fact I’m writing this on the way back from a Friday class. It’s got a great mix of precision and discipline, whilst being forgiving enough that you can make mistakes and get away with it. Of all the things I thought I’d never own, a pair of dance shoes was pretty close to the top of the list. And now, weirdly, I have “dance sneakers” on order…

Would you recommend partner dancing to other couples?

Sumayya: We enjoy dancing together, as it’s good to have a shared hobby that we can attend regularly. It gives us something active to do together, in addition to dining out etc. – the more sedentary stuff. And it looks to be a dance you can do into old age, so it’s relatively time-proof! You’ll also make new friends from all sorts of backgrounds, which is great fun.

I am now regularly spotted dragging other couples to classes, shouting “you’ll love it”. Why? For all the reasons above, plus the fact that it’s great practice for learning to work together, which I’m told is something you have to do once married!

Ben: Whenever a move goes wrong I can blame it on her for not following my lead…(joking, love you dear)…It’s good having somebody you dance with about half the time, as you can learn to be more subtle with the lead, but changing partners keeps you from getting lazy. I would definitely recommend it to other couples, as it’s a fun and cheap night out where you get a bit of exercise, meet new people and learn a new creative skill. What’s not to like?