It takes two to tango, and that's exactly what Dr. Andrew Goldman and Amanda Jenkins Goldman did to surprise guests at their wedding reception in April at Macari Vineyards in Mattituck.
Instead of the traditional slow dance in front of 55 family members and friends, the energetic just-married couple appeared on the vineyard's deck and executed a passionate Argentine tango replete with kicks, dips, twists and a climactic kiss.
"We like to do classy, romantic things," Andrew, 30, an internist at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, said as they took the last of a month's worth of lessons (cost: about $1,000) with veteran dance instructor Dennis Moore at The Ballroom of Huntington.
So he and Amanda, 29, an office manager for a Smithtown surgical practice, who have known each other since attending Candlewood Middle School in Dix Hills, decided to re-create a sequence from the movie "Scent of a Woman." That's the famous scene in which Al Pacino, playing the blind Lt. Col. Frank Slade, sweeps a woman off her feet to the tune of the Argentine tango standard "Por una Cabeza."
At their last lesson, Moore, who has taught and choreographed hundreds of first dances, had watched the final run-through. As the tango music swelled, Andrew looked directly into Amanda's eyes as she wrapped her leg around his and they kissed.
"He's better than Al Pacino," Moore said.
Two days later, at the Saturday wedding reception, guests were taken aback when the bride changed out of her Sottero & Midgley mermaid-style wedding gown and slipped into an off-the-rack black lace cocktail dress -- the better to execute the Argentine tango's between-the-legs kicks. Andrew, who is better known among friends for his martial arts skills, also made a good impression on the dance floor. Guests applauded and showered the couple with compliments. "They were really shocked because they know that Andrew is not a dancer," Amanda said a week later.
The Goldmans' preparation is not out of step with the way other Long Island couples are approaching their first dance. Many couples are taking lessons -- for around $90 a session -- to learn a ballroom dance not only for the reception, but also for other weddings and events. Many credit this wedding reception dance craze to the popularity of "Dancing With the Stars," and "The Bachelor's" Sean Lowe's appearances on the dance competition's Season 16.
"I have to give a huge credit to 'Dancing With the Stars.' They brought it [ballroom dancing] to the mainstream," said Alfred Peña of North Woodmere, founder and director of Rhythmology, a social dance network with studios in Westbury and Patchogue. Many altar-bound couples ask Peña, "Are we going to be dancing like they do on 'Dancing With the Stars?' "
Those who want to match the moves of Zendaya and Kellie Pickler on "DWTS" should start taking lessons about six months before their wedding day, Peña said. It generally takes 20 to 30 once-a-week lessons to choreograph the first dance, though it's possible to cram and get good results in two to three months, he adds. If you practice enough, you'll develop "muscle memory," so you no longer need to think about the steps before you do them, said Denise deFeo, owner of The Ballroom of Huntington. Then you'll be looking at your partner instead of your feet when you're on the dance floor. The goal, deFeo said, is "to get as much romance as you can out of the first dance."
It helps, of course, if one half of the couple is already a professional dancer. Marine Corps Cpl. Charles Reeder, 27, who was on active duty from 2006 to 2010, including a year stationed in Iraq, met Ali Bertash, 27, of Centerport, during Fleet Week in Manhattan. He was a member of a Marine color guard, and she was performing with the Liberty Bells, a USO dancing and singing group. They posed for a photo together aboard ship, clicked and wound up spending the rest of Fleet Week together.
For their wedding reception June 29 at Coindre Hall in Huntington, they're planning a choreographed waltz to Adele's recording of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love." Moore has been teaching them the waltz, including a few Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers-style lifts, for the past two months in lessons at The Ballroom of Huntington.
Their biggest obstacle: Bertash doesn't want to rehearse in the gown she'll be wearing on her wedding day. "That's going to be a difficulty," Reeder says. "I'll have to be careful where I step."
Lisa Vintaloro, 32, of Long Beach, an occupational therapist for the Bay Shore School District, is also an experienced dancer. "My mom's family is of Puerto Rican descent, and I've been dancing salsa at clubs on Long Island where Alfred [Peña] gives lessons," Vintaloro said. Vintaloro and her fiance, Adam Shea, 32, a special-education teacher in Bay Shore whom she met four years ago on the job, will begin with a traditional slow dance July 6 at Lombardi's on the Bay in Patchogue. The DJ also will play salsa, merengue and other Latin tunes, and they plan to tear up the floor with the steps they've been learning at Peña's Westbury studio. "He's an Irish guy who's never done this before,'' Vintaloro said of her fiance. "But he's not two left feet -- he's got rhythm. Adam wants to be able to do those dances with me as husband and wife throughout the night."