Dancing wedding becomes a Web hit

By Sarah Kaufman
The Washington Post / July 28, 2009

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With their squeezed-tight knees and vigorously swinging backsides, the ushers do Usher one better.

Wearing pink dresses and dark glasses, the bridesmaids swivel and high-step down the aisle with deadpan gyrations, like voguers from the House of Honeymoon. The groom turns a somersault and coolly spins off to the altar, adjusting his tie.

And when the bride makes her entrance, white satin churning as she shifts into hip-slinging overdrive, pumping her bouquet in the air to the beat of Chris Brown’s “Forever,’’ she gets the standing ovation she deserves.

From the cheering guests in this rocking St. Paul church on June 20, it wasn’t just a show of respect. It was a shout-out of R-E-S-P-E-C-T, in a profound way.

In the latest dispatch from the Internet badlands, another meta-moment: Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz’s dancing wedding procession - yes, they and their attendants (seven bridesmaids, five groomsmen, four ushers) all boogied down the aisle, fabulously - which after less than five days on YouTube snagged 1.75 million hits, the latest ordinary-folks-with-talent stunner to hit the Web.

At this wedding, the party got started well before any vows, rings, and kisses were exchanged. Here the entrance of the wedding party turned into a wedding par-tay, a cakewalk down the aisle, a processional gone phenomenal. No wonder it migrated around the world after the couple, both 28, posted it on YouTube. Millions of eyes recognized it as something special - from the linebacker-size groomsmen’s seam-splitting moves to the slow-motion group tableau at the altar to the sheer uninhibited happiness of it all that pops off the screen like champagne blowing its cork.

Among the video’s fans were the producers of NBC’s “Today’’ show, who put the couple on the air Friday morning - Jill with a delightful made-for-TV smile, Kevin donning a heartland-anti-chic look in an argyle sweater vest and horn-rimmed glasses.

Peterson danced growing up and told Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer that she “loved dance as a way to express yourself and share joy.’’

And that’s exactly what’s behind the enormous response to their video. It’s all about the joy.

We all know what we’re supposed to do at weddings: Look on politely as a matchy-matchy parade of friends makes its slooooow way down the aisle to Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Try not to giggle. Rise for the bride.

But, by dancing their entrances and sending that upbeat, physical energy right back out to their guests, the Peterson-Heinz wedding turns the rote behaviors into spontaneous reactions. Of course the guests watch attentively as the wedding party bobs in. You can bet not a single child had to be shushed at that point. This was no longer a display of bad posture and dyed-to-match pumps - it was an uplifting swell of celebration with a beat. The bride - unescorted - was and wasn’t the center of attention. The true focus was on the unified, wordless but palpable emotions of her whole support system.

It plugs us in to something deeply human. Dancing is how so many cultures have celebrated weddings for eons. OK, maybe not exactly like this, with the ushers turning their programs into confetti, with one groomsman thrusting a stray flower between his teeth and flinging himself into a handstand, with two of the bridesmaids clasping hands and doing a little riff on swing dancing.

Jill and Kevin claimed to have had only one rehearsal and said the whole group contributed to the choreography. They did an amazing job of it. It builds in force right up until the crowning moment: the pas de deux, where Kevin takes his bride’s arm and they glide in step toward the beaming minister.

Maybe we’ll see the Heinz ensemble next on “So You Think You Can Dance.’’ Whatever their future, they did with that performance what great dancers can do. They pulled us all into their story.