Stake Youth Dances -OR- Why Dancing is So Stupid

One of my favorite television shows is Seinfeld. In one of the episodes Jerry is talking to his girlfriend of the week, and the conversation goes something like this:

GotW: Do you like dancing, Jerry?

Jerry: Not really.

GotW: Why not?

Jerry: Because dancing is so stupid.

Jerry pretty well sums up my feelings about dancing. I don’t like dancing at all, even to my favorite music (live concert tomorrow!), unless you count perceptible head bobbing and occasional air drums.

Much of my experience with dancing has come from stake youth dances. Perhaps it was something about how these dances were conducted that contributed to my negative feelings toward dancing.

The last time I danced was at a stake dance a few years ago. It was a combined youth and adult dance. I did not want to go in the least, but with some pressure and coaxing from my wife and a few friends I reluctantly went. After dragging my feet for a while I eventually got pulled onto the floor. My wife and friends started laughing at me. I must have looked pretty dumb. My wife started giving me advice. Maybe move your arms more, act more natural, have fun with it, and on and on. The laughing and mocking continued. They knew I was uncomfortable, and they were enjoying every minute of it. I started getting embarrassed and angry. It wouldn’t stop. A few more words of advice came from my wife. I stepped real close to her, brushed the hair away from the side of her face, moved my lips close to her ear, and firmly whispered, ‘leave me alone, or I am walking away, understand?’

The look in her eyes was a cold fire. She understood. We endured to rest of the song, and have not danced since.  It was not a high point in our marriage.

About that same time our stake got a visit from a Brother Oliphant who was a long time dance instructor at Ricks College. He came to give stake youth leaders advice about youth dances. He said that he had interviewed thousands of people about stake youth dances and had received common complaints over and over again. The three main complaints were:

It’s too dark.

It’s too loud.

There is too much ‘romance’ associated with dancing.

These probably would have been my complaints also. Brother Oliphant suggested that we try changing the above things, and promised that we would be amazed by the results. He recommended turning on all the lights for youth dances, and turning the volume down several notches. I imagine that doing these two things alone would greatly change the atmosphere of many youth dances. You might actually be able to comfortable talk to someone, and see who you are talking to. He also recommended teaching several choreographed group dances – probably along the lines of line dancing.

What do you think of Brother Oliphant’s advice? I think he is on the money.

Are there other things that might be done to help more of the youth, and perhaps particularly the young men, enjoy dancing in an appropriate way?

Do you like to dance, or is dancing stupid?

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27 Responses to “Stake Youth Dances -OR- Why Dancing is So Stupid”


  1. 1 mistaben August 27, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    Five years ago, the Provo ward we attended had a ward square dance. Someone actually arranged for this fellow to be there and direct us: “Grab your partner,” “Doh-si-doh,” etc. It was fabulous.

    I agree with Brother Oliphant. Turn on the lights. Turn down the volume. The idea is to have a community-building event, not a hormone stew, right?

    My wife danced through high school, and I sort of enjoy dancing, but it’s so uncommon that I always forget anything I managed to learn the previous time. Having a regular square dance, saltarello, or hopak would not only bring the neighbors together, it would give me much more regular practice!

  2. 2 Michelle August 27, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    Square dance? Awesome idea! I think our generations have missed out by not having the chance to learn real dances instead of ‘having’ dances.

    I, too, agree with the whole change the atmosphere thing. Yuck is all I can say with the dark, the noise and the culture of dances. Yuck.

  3. 3 Geoff J August 27, 2007 at 11:24 pm

    Yuck is all I can say with the dark, the noise and the culture of dances. Yuck.

    Holy smokes! You sound like a character from Footloose

    Eric — Dancing rules, rules, rules. I do it whenever the mood hits me and love it.

  4. 4 Matt W. August 27, 2007 at 11:33 pm

    I love to Dance, but only with my wife.

  5. 5 Matt W. August 27, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    I love to Dance, but only with my wife. and my daughters

  6. 6 Naiah Earhart August 27, 2007 at 11:37 pm

    I love to dance, and I do any- and everywhere I can, but I still think Brother Oliphant’s counsel is right on. Dances, especially for the youth, should be lighthearted and fun. The youth in our area have a few line dance type things thet thay’ve picked up at EFY, eyc, and when those songs hit the floor is *full* and th kids just love it. In our ward there was also a recent Laurels/Priests activity where they learned to two step, and it was fun to see them trying it out at the dance.

  7. 7 Proud Daughter of Eve August 28, 2007 at 8:02 am

    Count me in as another Brother Oliphant supporter! Changing the light and volume would do a lot to making the atmosphere more pleasant and I have long wished they’d get someone in and teach actual dance moves, instead of leaving us to flail on the floor and feel like morons. (The experience Eric shared is precisely the kind of thing I fear and that keeps me off of the dance floor.) When I was attending youth dances, the only two songs guaranteed to fill the floor were “The Electric Slide” and “YMCA.” Later there was the “Macarena” too.

    People like to think they have some idea of what they’re doing. Bring back rounds, reels, waltzes and all that jazz!

  8. 8 John Mansfield August 28, 2007 at 8:15 am

    I like dance quite a bit, and I think Brother Oliphant’s ideas are all great. They cause me to stop and wonder: Who is the constituency for dark and loud? The DJ who wants to show off his watts? Nightclub attenders? Whose tender toes will need to be stepped on gently so that people can talk without leaning into one another’s faces and shouting?

  9. 9 Sam B. August 28, 2007 at 8:17 am

    As for lights, music, etc., it entirely depends on they type of dance. My wife and I went swing dancing Saturday night for her birthday; there was a live 18-piece band, big dance floor, and lights, and it was a lot of fun (although it was a hot night with no air conditioning—I do think that AC should be required, at least in the summer!).

    That said, the problem is that largely we don’t know how to dance. I’ve taken some social dance and am a musician, and my wife is a modern dancer, and her mom is a ballroom instructor, but, if not for that, I certainly wouldn’t have any idea how to dance.

    So I say, in YM/YW (and maybe even as a ward activity), periodically have dance lessons. Teach swing, teach foxtrot, teach cha-cha and samba. The Mutual Improvement Association used to be about cultural inculcation—art and music and literature and dance. It wouldn’t kill us to bring that back once every month or two.

  10. 10 Geoff J August 28, 2007 at 8:33 am

    Lights down low and music pumping is the only way to go. As a teenager I wouldn’t have been caught dead at a square dance.

  11. 11 Eric Nielson August 28, 2007 at 9:38 am

    Thanks for the comments so far everyone! I’ll try to address the questions/direct comments so far:

    Mistaben: The idea is to have a community-building event, not a hormone stew, right?

    That is my feeling. I think I would like public dancing more if much of the ‘romance’ were taken out of it.

    Michelle: Square Dances?

    I think the more general group dances is more what I would have in mind, with square dances being one of the types.

    Geoff: Dancing rules, rules, rules.

    There have been a couple of moments in my life when I wish I could really feel that. I often feel silly and stupid when dancing in public.

    John: Who is the constituency for dark and loud?

    I should have pointed out that the source of the interviews and complaints came from the youth. The youth thought it was too dark and too loud. Not the adults. I think it is the adults and stake leaders that go with the flow and current culture of dances, and these are the people who will have to influence the change.

  12. 12 Norbert August 28, 2007 at 10:30 am

    I loved youth dances as a kid –in SoCal there were several stakes to choose from each Saturday, and we went almost every week. The louder and darker, the better. I loved the chance to cut loose on the dance floor, and to be reasonably safe doing so. And I really liked the romance as well. To say there is no romance in dancing is to miss the whole point, if you ask me. My gut response reading this is that Br. Oliphant is a killjoy and fun dances might be made boring and lame, but that may be my sixteen year-old self talking.

  13. 13 joe August 28, 2007 at 10:32 am

    This has to very cultural. I have noticed that US western mormon men don’t like to dance. I am hispanic mormon from Miami. We all Dance :).

  14. 14 Mark IV August 28, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Eric,

    I can give the only true and living answer to your question. I also used to hate dancing, I think it was a result of being forced into it as a kid. Now I absolutely love it, even though I’m still only mediocre at it.

    My wife and I took a dance class together (yes, it was a lame as it sounds), but one I got that little bit of confidence, it made all the difference. Dancing rules. If your wife enjoys it, you should seriously consider taking a few lessons – it pays off in many ways (nudge nudge wink wink). I have big feet and it was awkward at first, but there is a reason so many people like it.

    This Oliphant fellow probably knows a lot about dancing, but doesn’t appear to understand youth at all. We call the events dances, but lots of kids go and don’t dance. They like to be with their friends, listen to music, etc. Nothing wrong with that. It would be counterproductive for somebody to come in and start paring them off and forcing dancing upon them.

  15. 15 mondo cool August 28, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    I love to dance with Matt W.’s wife and my daughters. also.

  16. 16 mondo cool August 28, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    Actually, I’m lying!!!! If I can’t dance like Fred or Gene, and I can’t, then I don’t like to dance. Everybody else is free to – and please, dance with my wife so I don’t have to.

  17. 17 Norbert August 28, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    ‘If your wife enjoys it, you should seriously consider taking a few lessons – it pays off in many ways (nudge nudge wink wink). ‘

    I totally, totally agree. I learned to waltz for my wedding, and Iäm good enough to swing the little lady around the floor in a pretty impressive fashion. And my oafishness is registered as a weapon in several states.

  18. 18 Eric Nielson August 29, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    Mondo:

    I completely agree with the dance with my wife part.

  19. 19 Bradley Ross August 29, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    This Mark IV fellow probably knows a lot about youth, but doesn’t appear to understand dances at all. We call these events dances…

    Sorry, I’m feeling a bit snarky, but in a light-hearted way. Mark IV, do you think Oliphant was misrepresenting what he heard from the youth, or do you suppose he simply heard from a vocal minority of the youth?

    I hated dances as a kid. At college, a girl talked me into taking a social dance class. I loved it. I’m sure watching me dance is also amusing for onlookers, so multiple good purposes are served.

  20. 20 Candace Salima August 31, 2007 at 9:58 am

    I love to dance and I really loved church dances as a youth. But our leaders made it a point to teach us how to dance, they made it fun and encouraged us to be friends rather involving romances in the dancing.

    I think you’re right. Br. Oliphant really has something there. And may I add one more thing, those who were mocking and laughing at you while you were dancing ought to be smacked. That was completely uncalled for. (Ooops, ending in a preposition – that’s a bad thing for a writer to do. Sorry.)

    By the way, I’m not sure how I found your blog. I think from http://www.writersofmormon.com, but I’m not certain. But I have an LDS Blog Webring I’d love to have you join. Please drop by my blog, find the webring and click on Join.

  21. 22 Jacob J August 31, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    Dancing is awesome. I have few opportunities to dance these days, so I crank up the music and my house and dance with all of my kids. You simply can’t dance properly if the music is too low. Gots to be loud. When I was a teenager, I went to dances to dance, not to talk to dumb girls. Yuck. Girls. Yuck.

  22. 23 Eric Nielson September 3, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Candace:

    I am glad you stopped by. I should point out to all that my wife was not laughing at me, and she was just trying to help. And in a way I brought some of the teasing on myself by making a point for a few days prior to the dance about how much I hated dancing and how terrible I was at it. I sort of set myself up. Better to just keep quiet.

    Stephen:

    I’m glad. Seems there are a lot of people who do.

    JacobJ:

    Talking to girls bad, dancing with girls good? Or just who were you dancing with?

  23. 24 LDS Anarchist October 13, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    I think stake (church) dances should be abolished altogether. Dancing should be spontaneous, with no rules, whatsoever, unless it is a dance competition. The priesthood should not be regulating dances. If the youth or adults want to dance, let them dance. If they want to have a dance, let them organize their own private dances (or dance parties), at their own private locations, with their own private music, private dress codes (or lack thereof) and their own private rules. Keep the priesthood out of it.

  24. 25 Eric Nielson October 14, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    But that would be anarchy!

  25. 26 Chad January 3, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    You shouldn’t dance, you have too many mental issues to handle it. You also have religious issues, blinded by dogma and lies. The fact that your religion, whatever that is, has you so twisted up that you can’t interact with other human beings in a very normal situation also speaks to the corrupting influence of your religion. Add in that you are having combined youth-adult dances, and it gets even scarier in my book. For heavens sake, let kids be kids without you freaks interjecting your twisted religious beliefs in. What your religion is doing is unnatural. You aren’t allowing kids to be kids, aren’t allowing them to grow up naturally, aren’t allowing them to learn who they are and what the world is. You would rather coddle, brainwash with dogma and lies, and twist your kids up tighter and more severely than you. Quite a noble religion you have there, whatever set of lies you follow. Don’t believe me? Look in the mirror buddy
    Can you not see that your religions teachings have directly led to your inability to socialize like a normal human? It is sad. It is also scary because you think that is normal, and even scarier because you are actively taking part in destroying children and trying to make them socially defective like you. How can you not see this?

  26. 27 Eric Nielson January 7, 2017 at 11:29 am

    You are probably right Chad. An anything goes approach to parenting teenagers is almost certainly a good idea.


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