The first date.

I shudder to think about it. The awkwardness, the nervousness, the uncertainty. And sometimes the activity involved only makes it worse. I had one friend who took his date to McDonald’s for their first encounter, another suggested camping (yes, camping), and a girlfriend whose date drove her to a dinner at his mom’s house. Cringe-worthy, for sure. And while, thankfully, most of us have never suffered through those types of first dates, the clichéd ones are not much better. (I mean, c’mon, you can do better than dinner and a movie.)

So, I get it. Guys (and girls) in charge of coming up with a unique yet fun first date have their hands full. I see a lot of new couples come to the studio for dance classes, and while I applaud their ability to break away from the typical, I feel it’s time for a word of caution: Give it plenty of thought first.

Don’t make missteps

It’s easy to see how dance might be a good option for a first date—that romantic embrace, moving across the dance floor as one. I think I’ve seen that in a movie somewhere.

Unfortunately, reality is not always as picture-perfect. I recently observed a couple visit the ballroom for a first date. The woman was a little uncoordinated and quickly took on the role of the helpless, “I don’t know what to do” damsel in distress. The guy was struggling as well and was feeling especially powerless to help her because, after all, he was also learning (and having an especially hard time).

After class, he commented to me that he’d seen the dance on YouTube and wanted to try it on his date. How hard could it be, right? Turns out the dance he saw was a West Coast Swing, so he signed up for our swing class. Yes, it’s one of the coolest and sexiest dances, but it’s also one of the most difficult to learn for a beginner.

One user on Girls Ask Guys summed up what happened with her response to the question, “Is going dancing a good first date?”

“If it is something the girl has never done, I would wait to do that on a later date. While it is different and sets you apart, it can also feel intimidating to a first-timer.”

Choose the right dance

So, is dance a poor choice for a first date? Not necessarily. In fact, you can find many articles and blogs that espouse many of the positive benefits—learning about your date’s musical tastes, the ability to interact, the chance to express yourself. One site even equates your date’s dancing skills to his or her bedroom skills (but I’m not going there).

Dancing is actually a great way to learn about your partner: Learning new steps requires patience, listening skills and the ability to be a good sport. These are qualities you can only observe through actions, not words.

Yes, I’m all for date night at a dance studio, but consider a private lesson or a group class that’s learning an easier dance. Better yet, let the dance instructor know you’ll be on a date – especially if it’s a first date – so he or she can help you make the best decision. A different class might be a better option, and keep you from looking foolish.

Whatever you do, don’t get caught up in a YouTube fantasy or bring unrealistic expectations to the dance floor. You WILL feel awkward when you’re learning a new dance, so keep that in mind if you decide to venture to the ballroom with someone you’ve just met.

With some simple communication with the instructor, you can ensure your first date is a rousing success (assuming, of course, you’re not headed to your mom’s house for dinner afterward.)

As a professional dance instructor and owner of Overland Park Ballroom, Amy Castro has been teaching ballroom dance for more than 25 years. Let her know about your best (or worst) first date by tweeting @OP_Ballroom or by commenting on the Facebook page.