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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Making Stake Dances Better

Dear Bro Jo,

I am 17 now and I have attended every church dance that is put on by my stake and two other stakes. (In St. Louis we have these Tri-stake dances.)

Unfortunately, with three stakes, you would think there would be a lot of youth showing up but there is not. I was wondering if maybe you could do a poll type thing where people would submit what they would like at the stake dances so I, and others, can see what I, and others, can tell some of the leaders to do differently to make more people go.


A Frequent Dance Attender

Dear Attender,

I've brought this up a few times before. (In fact, we used to have a Facebook Discussion Page about it until Facebook stopped having Discussion Pages.)

Typically, here's what I hear most:

1. More slow songs. DJ's, and the adults that hire them, have this misguided opinion that a dance is successful if the floor is crowded with sweaty teenagers; not so. Teens go to dances because they want to get to know other teens, and let's face it, any more unless the fast song is a swing or jitterbug style song, nobody is asking anyone else to dance; you can't talk to anyone at a dance if you're a) not dancing with anyone, or b) the music itself is not conducive to talking. Most Stake Dances hover right around 1 slow song per 45minutes to an hour; the requested and recommended ratio is about 1 out of every two or three songs should be slow, occasionally playing TWO slow songs in a row (that way the guys who missed their shot during the first song have a second chance right now, while they're still in the mood).

2. Regularity. Dances are more successful if their timing is predictable. Halloween, New Years, Valentine’s Day, Start of Summer, Start of the School Year - that kind of stuff. If people know when it's coming, they'll make plans, and if an event (any kind, actually - Sister Jo can testify to this - she's our Stake Activities Coordinator) is the same time every year, then other things can be planned around the event.

3. Offer something that can't be had anywhere else. You're providing a morally clean environment, and that's great, but you've got to do more than that if you're going to compete with everything else that's going on. Live music (I'm talking "local high school jazz band", not "wannabe garage rock band"), Winter Gala (formal), priest-Laurel only dances (you're 17, do you really want to be dancing with guys who were deacons just last week?), Dance Contests, Dance Cards, Retro Night (Disco . . . 50's . . . pick and era and Stick To It), think out of the box! You don't have to get crazy, or spend a lot of money, but have some fun! Have the dance follow a "how to dance" class or an etiquette dinner.

4. Set up "relaxation stations" - rooms away from the music where people can sit and talk, maybe play some games like "Apples to Apples" or "Taboo".

5. Talk to the kids who are not going and find out why. I did that here once and discovered that the Body Oder of the guys in our Stake was repulsing many of the girls. I talked to several YM leaders and clued them in, then provided the requested scents of body spray in the guys' restroom. I also carried some with me so at the dance I could pull offending guys aside and say "dude, here, take this and go into the bathroom and fix your smell".

6. Get over it. Stop acting like you have to hit a certain attendance number for the dance to have been successful. I absolutely agree that more numbers make for a much better dance, but when its all over, if those of you involved go around talking about how great it would have been to have more people . . . then no one will want to come next time. Instead what you say is: "It was great! Too bad you weren't there!"

Those are my quick six.

I'll post your letter in the column this week, and let's see what the readers have to say.

Thanks for the letter,

- Bro Jo


Peter & Molly said...

Dear FDA,
I haven't been to dances in a long time, but when I did everyone got a dance card promising to follow the rules, and it had the date and location of every dance for the whole year. It was great because, you always knew when the next one was. And they were like every two or three weeks, so people could plan on them.

I had a big group of friends that enjoyed going, but one dance we all played duck duck goose, and the chaperones made us get up off the floor. Then the next dance we brought bubbles to play with and the chaperones confiscated it.

Bro Jo's right about having unique dances, but the people who are in charge don't have to be in control. There really wasn't anything wrong with blowing bubbles or playing duck duck goose, but because they were so concerned about it, they ended up losing about fifteen people coming to dances for a couple of years.

Another huge issue that we had and now my kid brother has with the stake is the music selection. The problem is when people say that's the problem they then ask the youth what music they want to play. But even though they know the songs they like, they don't know what would make for a good dance. They aren't professional DJ's. Putting together good dance music is an art in and of itself. See if one of the three stakes has a professional DJ in it. You can't expect her or him to DJ every dance for you, but see if he or she would teach a class to some of the semi-pros that do most stake dances. It might help out a lot.

I know that there are few places in the world with so many people crammed together as Southern California, where I was from, but we had 7 stake dances. And it was super successful. Of course even for the farthest stake we had to drive 30 minutes, so it may not work for everyone, but at least something to consider. Because I have to disagree with Bro Jo on one thing, the number of people you have does matter. A lot. Not just in deciding if it was successful or not, but in whether or not people come again. People want to be at dances with lots of other people. People provide lots of fun, and lots of people allow you to disappear into the crowd sometimes. Both important things for a good dance.

Keep up the good work. Youth dances are the Lord's work.

Anonymous said...

In my area we have a dance every weekend held by different stakes. for example first week is Irvine stake, second is Margarita stake, third week is Cypre stake, fourth is Orange stake and if there is a fifth Saturday Port stake has a dance. they all start and end at the same time 8:30-11pm. They don't switch weekends ever either which is nice cause you always know where the dance is. Each stake does their own thing and hires their own DJ. One stake in particular has theme dances: Nerd, Disney, napoleon dynamite. Your supposed to come dressed as that theme. People have a lot of fun with it and some get very into it. Another stake is casual dress. When you come in you have to sign your name and put what stake your from. Then when that stake is having a special dance or has to cancel a dance they contact those stake leaders to let them know. One thing my friend did was started a Facebook group page that has all the dances listed and their addresses that way people don't have to call other people trying to find the address. He also posts the themes of the dance or if the dance is canceled which is very helpful as sometimes the word doesn't get spread fast enough. I hope that helps you!

Anonymous said...

The right amount of lighting is very important. Too much, and NO ONE will dance. Too little, and things can take a turn for the less than ideal appropriateness. Also, make sure the refreshments are enjoyable. Small details like that make a big difference when you have the whole package.

Ryan said...

LDS Music Charts is the perfect place to be if you are creating a stake dance music list. The songs on this site are screened for content that is appropriate to the type of music you will want to have playing at your next stake dance.

Ben Cullen said...

Our local stake dances,the oakton virginia stake,have stake dances down to a science. They pull in about 250 kids dance and 600+ on new years. Recently they decided to put together a website with some tips,tricks and their music collection among other things so other stakes could improve their stake dances.
The link is