Photo: Vivian Song
Frances and Randy Kim re-enact the moves to their elaborate So you think you can Dance wedding routine that ran 20 minutes long.
Published in The Toronto Star, January, 2010.
As choreographer Christine Caponi recites the words to "Tonight's gonna be a good night" by the Black Eyed Peas, Frances and Randy Kim – or "Frandy," as they're called – mimic a hammer swing ("Go out and smash it") and feign surprise ("Like, oh my God").
The Vaughan couple is performing the dance from their 20-minute wedding show, staged for 300 guests last fall after they were pronounced husband and wife.
"We wanted a wedding where guests didn't go away thinking it was just another wedding," says Frances, 29. "It was more for friends and family – that they could have an experience they could share with us."
Elaborately choreographed dance routines are becoming increasingly popular at wedding parties. Couples are outdoing each other on YouTube, which has become a virtual library of wedding dances gone wild, returning 65,000 hits in a recent search.
When John and Michelle Brubaker famously christened their marriage with Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" – an ode to the junk in a woman's trunk – and shared it with the world on YouTube in 2007, they unwittingly started a revolution that would prompt other couples to up the ante.
The next couple to become an Internet sensation was Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz, whose unconventional wedding entrance from last summer has attracted 38.9 million views on YouTube. Instead of the wedding march, bridesmaids and groomsmen boogied, sashayed, head-bopped, somersaulted and generally threw their hands up in the ay-uhh to the tune of Chris Brown's "Forever."
So popular was the entrance that the wedding party performed for The Today Show, Good Morning America and has been spoofed on Australia's version of Dancing with the Stars.
At VYbE Dance Company in Markham, artistic director Teego says she's seen a rise in interest among wedding couples seeking professional hip-hop lessons for their wedding dance.
But more than wowing the audience with a slick performance, couples are requesting simple, fun routines that kick it old school.
"A lot of them ask for older dance moves, like the Running Man and the Roger Rabbit," Teego says. "It's more enjoyable to see a person make a fool of themselves than being serious."
For the Kims, persuading their wedding party of 10 took some coaxing, Frances admits, but nothing a few overly enthusiastic emails, punctuated with generous emoticons, couldn't achieve.
All of them, including the bride and groom, were to perform solo routines for 30 seconds as mock competitors on So you Think You Can Dance Canada, of which the Kims are devoted fans.
Randy used his web developing background to recreate the show. An edited intro was projected on a big screen in the banquet hall, which featured the wedding party's names in bright lights. He filmed and edited montages of the dancers rehearsing, and Caponi stood in for the show's real host, Cat Deeley, cueing the dancers, lighting and music, and cheering in the wings.
They held weekly practices on Thursday nights for 10 weeks before the wedding. Dancers chose classic tracks from the 1990s such as "Ice Ice Baby," "U Can't Touch This" and more recent hits such as Beyoncé's "Single Ladies," performed by a trio of spandex-wearing, wholly committed male dancers who won over the audience.
"We weren't looking for a wow factor," Frances says. "We just wanted to have fun."
It was also a strategic move, she says, as the performance wound up with each dancer pulling guests up to join them and served as a natural transition into the night.
"It can be hard to get people dancing, so one of our goals was to get people on the dance floor after dinner and get the DJ into a party mode," she says.
Surprises always work well with guests, adds wedding planner Jennifer Borgh.
Her advice for couples is to stay away from the predictable – tired stunts done ad nauseam, such as starting off to a slow song, skidding it to a halt and transitioning to a breakout song, a move made infamous by the Brubakers.
"It's been overdone," she says.
So have spoofs of "Thriller," which is why Frances nixed the idea when she found out Randy had been planning it as a surprise for her at the wedding. "I wasn't having it," she says, laughing.
Popular TV shows such as SYTYCD, Dancing with the Stars and America's Best Dance Crew are also emboldening normally dance-phobic couples, particularly men, adds Chuan Chee, founder of Wedding Dance.
"Those shows have changed the cultural importance of what dancing is to us," he says. "It's helped men overcome their fears."
Chee, who teaches ballroom dancing, recommends couples take private lessons at least two months before the wedding and that they practise the length of the song everyday not just to feel at ease with the routine, but to strengthen their relationship.
"The first dance proves that the couple can do something together, that they can work as a unit," he says. "Dancing is a partnership and you have to work as a team."
If you plan to entertain your guests with a choreographed dance, be it a hip-hop number, "Funky Cold Medina" or a romantic ballad by Frank Sinatra, wedding planner Jennifer Borgh and dance instructors Chuan Chee and Teego have a few tips.
Choose a song that reflects you as a couple.
EnrolL in private lessons at least two months before the wedding.
Practise together or individually at least the length of the song every day.
Put a new twist on the performance to make it unique; for example, re-enact a famous movie scene.
Involve your guests and children.
Always pay for your wedding party's lessons if you want them to dance.
If you're having difficulty recruiting your husband, negotiate something he really wants.
Have fun and remember that audiences won't know if you made a mistake.