Created by: Alyson Moschcovich, The Connecticut Bride

Written by: Robert DiGioia, The Connecticut Bride

Most would agree that marriage is a big step. But at traditional receptions, the more daunting footwork sometimes comes just after the ceremony and before the cake: the first dance of the couple as wife and husband. Slow and shuffling doesn’t cut it in a world where Dancing With The Stars has made choreography de rigueur.

Thankfully Andrew Kerski is nearby to lend a hand and a twirl. Kerski owns the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Middletown (860-788-7150, fredastaire.com/middletown), which served as the backdrop for this Connecticut Bride styled shoot feature. His years as a professional performer, competitor and instructor puts him deservedly at the intersection of bossa novas and bridal parties. And Ashley Andriulli-Monteleone, the maestra behind East Windsor-based Ashley Elizabeth Events (860-539-9262, ashleyelizabethevents.com), brought the whole Astaire production together through her extensive resources and expert eye.

I yield the floor …

CTB: Tell us about the Fred Astaire setup.

Andriulli-Monteleone: This wasn’t your typical dance lesson. We were able to recreate a fun night out, not just for the bride and groom but for the entire party. It was an opportunity to work with bold patterns and Kate Spade-inspired accents of gold with black and white, pops of bright pinks. Fred Astaire worked with their customer and came up with beautiful dresses. Everything tied together perfectly. 

I supplied the rentals — table linens, cake and dessert stands, the candy bar. We did a signature cocktail in addition to pouring Priam Vineyards wine. We offered COVID-friendly single-serve beverage cans and mini-snacks, and the music was do-it-yourself Como Audio.

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 CTB: Talk about the types of dances.

Kerski: Basic for the group dancing scenes — rumba, foxtrot. For the actual couple, my professional instructor and her partner got a bit fancier; lifts, tricks, things that we would incorporate into a dance for a wedding couple. We teach partner dancing, anything from old-school Charleston, jitterbug and Lindy-hop to more modern swing, East Coast jive. Going-out-to-the-club Latin like salsa, meringue, bachada.

TCB: What’s the usual lead time and learning curve? 

Kerski: I would say a minimum of six months for most couples. Even if your actual date is further out, the last thing you want to stress about is forgetting steps and freezing up. So the idea is to make the couple comfortable enough to be able to socially dance their dance. Then we turn that into a choreographed routine, so you get that repetition in the months leading up to the wedding. And they don’t have to live at the studio — one 45-minute lesson a week, or every other week, as long as they keep that six-month window. I had one couple come in 18 months before their wedding! They had a very specific dance they wanted to do. They didn’t even have a song picked out! So they never danced ballroom, and they asked for one of the most complex ballroom dances there is — and they did it! It ended up being a beautiful show.

TCB: Any requests for Fosse-esque flash mobs? 

 

Kerski: We do get those requests, but basically people don’t want to appear unprepared on their wedding day. One couple said, “We don’t want to look like we didn’t take any lessons, but we don’t want to do any complicated show with aerials either!” Another couple, the female taught pole dancing, she wanted to do back-flips, tricks between the legs, over-the-heads, and the ceremony was in Germany! So I had to teach the couple well enough so they could teach their Germany-based bridal party. They sent me the video; it was perfection. Probably the most full-out routine I ever did. A mashup of three different eras of music for their dance, then more modern music for the rest of the party.

TCB: What’s your background?

Kerski: I started ballroom 17 years ago and ended up on the event circuit, found a professional competing partner, and won the U.S. title for my style in 2009. I continued to compete while teaching at independent, non-franchised studios, and landed at Fred Astaire’s Glastonbury location in 2011. I began dancing with a new professional partner who happened to be the lead teacher here at Middletown.

TCB: Talk about your average clients.

Kerski: They come from all over the state. Most of our students are not wedding-related. Rather, they’re hobby dancers; some competitive, some just as an activity. Youngest is 13, and I personally teach a woman in her 80s. The girl will usually drag the guy in kicking and screaming, but then he ends up enjoying the experience more. Unfortunately some guys still have a hang-up about dancing. Ladies like men who can dance! With online dating, I think people forget how to relate face-to-face. Dance is a wonderful icebreaker to conversation.

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TCB: Any parting words?

Kerski: Dancing forces you to think from your partner’s perspective. How my lead affects the lady, how to support the gentleman as a follower. And that lesson permeates other aspects of the relationship, making for stronger couples.

TCB: How long has Fred Astaire Middletown been in business? 

Kerski: Middletown since 2011; I took over in 2018. It’s been a challenging year!


Vendors & models: 

Stylist: Ashley Elizabeth Events, East Windsor

Photographer: TimeFrozen Photography, Hartford

Venue: Fred Astaire Dance Studios, Middletown

Dresses: Dore Designs, Cape Coral

Dancers: Annie Rockhill & Jose Zuquilanda, Andrew Kerski & Lauryn Wendus, Elizabeth & Kenneth Connolly, Jean & Don Kerski, Monica & Travis Malave

Sign Designs: Tulaloo, Oakville

Flowers: Vine & Ivy Flowers DBA K&P Flowers, Suffield 

Makeup: LA Page Makeup, Meriden

Hair: Sabit V. Salon, Southbury

Appetizers: La Notte Weddings & Banquets, East Windsor

Desserts: Russo’s Italian Bakery, Enfield

Jewelry: Hannoush Jewelers, Enfield

Wine: Priam Vineyards, Colchester

Personal DJ: Como Audi

Beverages: Hardshore Original GinRitual Zero ProofRosé WaterAustin EastcidersRhum ClémentMionetto Prosecco

Robert DiGioia is the creative director for Hearst Connecticut Media Group, and an arts/society writer for its varied titles. A former Manhattanite and magazine publisher, he’s thrilled to be back in his birthplace, New Haven.