by Darrin Lythgoe
Set up a dance committee to be in charge. Have a mix of youth and adults on the committee, but for the most part, let the youth run the dance with adult supervision. Make sure the date you pick doesn’t conflict with any major church or school activities.
Build some excitement by making creative posters or fliers. Also, begin to announce the dance in Young Men and Young Women meetings about a month in advance. Be clear about the date, time, place, and dress code. Arrange rides, if needed. Also, so there’s no misunderstanding, whenever you publicize the dance, publicize the standards.
Try a theme. It’s not required, but if you’d like to make your dance stand out, build it around an idea. For example:
Black and white: Apply it to the dress, decorations, even the refreshments.
Hawaiian: Wear loud flowered shirts and sunglasses; serve pineapple.
Genealogy: Come as your favorite ancestor.
Winter: To be different, in the summer put up paper snowflakes and hang Christmas lights.
’50s or ’60s: Go preppie or hippie. Play good music from those eras, and do the swing or the mashed potato.
If you’ve got a theme, go for matching decor. Whatever you do, remember the best decorations are cheap but inventive. One stake had each ward paint a mural and bring it. Another covered the walls with beach towels for a summer theme. Whatever, make sure the decorations are easy to put up and take down.
The Activities Committee Handbook says lights should be bright enough to see across the room. It only makes sense. Don’t you want to see who you mingle with? Strobe lights or psychedelic lighting that pulsates with the beat are also frowned on. If your cultural hall doesn’t have any dim lights, try placing a few soft lamps around the room.
Something to drink and a variety of light snacks you can eat with your fingers are probably best. Again, make them go with the theme if possible. Assign dependable people to bring different things, and don’t forget napkins and plenty of trash cans strategically placed. Make sure the refreshments are easy to prepare and clean up because nobody wants to be stuck in the kitchen during the dance.
Using chairs or dividers, make the dance area the right size for the expected attendance. A floor that’s too big can make the dance seem desolate, and if it’s too cramped you’ll feel like a herd of cattle. Don’t leave any dark corners, though, and make sure there aren’t so many chairs that everyone wants to sit around. One leader said scattered small tables, each surrounded by a semicircle of chairs, worked in her stake.
For the Strength of Youth states that music “can be used to educate, edify, inspire and unite,” but also “music can, by its tempo, beat, intensity, and lyrics, dull your spiritual sensitivity.”
Have the dance committee get together to select and screen music before the dance. Have a mixture of fast and slow songs, new and old, and make sure you can dance to them. Some music may be good for listening but can be tiresome, if not impossible, to dance to. Remember too that song lyrics should not contain anything contrary to gospel principles.
The volume should be at least low enough to allow people standing side by side to talk without shouting. Half the fun is interacting with other people, right? If you can’t hear your dance partner talk, or yourself think, the music is too loud.
Spread yourself around. Both girls and guys, ask a number of different people to dance, and if you get asked, say yes! Don’t worry if you don’t know how to dance—most people are more worried about what they’re doing than about what anyone else is doing. Also, remember what For the Strength of Youth says about the way you dance: “When you are dancing, avoid full body contact or intimate positions with your partner.”
You might try adding a different twist to your dance by having one of these activities somewhere in the middle:
Lip sync exhibition.
Musical chairs or other games.
Dance lessons from experts.
Mixer dances, like a “snowball.”
It’s the last part of any successful dance. The secret is to have a plan, with lots of specific people assigned. Make sure everyone knows what needs to be done, and where everything goes, especially trash. End early enough so everyone can do their part and still be home at a decent hour.
Many teens in the South run to Florida beaches for spring break, but cousins Marty Craig, an elder in the Newnan Ward, Jonesboro Georgia Stake, and John ‘Mac’ Williams, a recent convert and priest in the Woodstock Ward, East Marietta Georgia Stake, headed to Honduras.
And it wasn’t for fun and games. They worked hard to help finish a dam for an 11-acre reservoir to power a generator for a boys’ school. Not only that, but they helped collect shirts, hats, candy, and machinery in Georgia to take down to the school. Oh, and of course they milked cows, helped build a new building, and shoveled and bagged rice. The school, “El Sembrador,” is almost self-sufficient now.
They also brought four copies of the Book of Mormon with them and personally presented them to some of the young men at the school. Marty is now continuing his missionary work full-time in the Dominican Republic. Mac will follow him into the mission field as soon as he graduates.
Youth from the Pittsburgh Stake and Wintersville, Ohio District became TV stars, thanks to their service project/youth conference. They cleaned up a cemetery that contained pre-Revolutionary graves, and the local media found the project so unique it was covered by television and newspapers.
Cemetery trustee Earl Nicodemus found the event unique as well. “I expected something like a Cub Scout troop,” he said, “and you could have knocked me over with a feather when they told me there would be as many as 200 kids here.”
The youth spent an entire day weeding, painting, fixing head stones, and copying family history information from the graves. The next two days were spent feeding the information they’d collected into the Church records.
“I think it’s really neat,” said Sarah Lee Altman, 17, of Pittsburgh. “It makes you excited to do genealogy because you want to learn about all these people and what they did.”
Scouts from the four Tongan wards in California’s San Francisco Bay area got the honor of meeting Tonga’s Royal Princess Salote Pilolevu Tuita during the northern California celebration of the Church’s centennial on that Pacific island.
The princess encouraged the young men to get an education and to continue to learn the traditions of Tonga. She said she was pleased with the strength and conviction of the Mormon youth. Fourteen young members of the Tongan branches are currently fulfilling her words by serving full-time missions.
Tonga’s population is 35 percent LDS, the highest LDS percentage of any country in the world.
Australia’s Philip Denley may like to listen to rap music, but he likes to sing classical—and he does it so well that he’s won a number of competitions.
The 14-year-old from the Lismore Branch, Brisbane Australia South Stake, is a boy soprano. He’s learning to play the piano and the violin.
Philip is quick to admit where his talent comes from. “I guess I was blessed,” he says simply.
We love all the FYI information you’ve been sending us. There are a lot of great people out there. So many, in fact, that it’s become impossible to keep up with all of them.
Because of the tremendous time and expense involved, we’ll no longer be able to return your information, unless you include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. If you send pictures, make sure you keep the negatives.
As you’ve probably noticed, the FYI section is now mostly interested in unique service projects, youth activities, and young people who have done unusual things that show they’re trying to incorporate the teachings of the Savior in their lives. Originality and sincerity are important. Thanks for your input!
Thirteen-year-old Jason Seawright of the Winder Fifth Ward, Salt Lake Winder Stake, has always been interested in the people in the Russian area. That’s why he took on odd jobs during the summer to earn enough money to buy 45 Russian copies of the Book of Mormon. He also had his testimony translated and put it in the books.
He then asked everyone he knew who would be traveling to the area to take the books with them and give them away. A 16-year-old boy from St. Petersburg wrote to Jason to thank him for sharing the gospel.
A lot of LDS young people are clowning around these days in an effort to be of service to the community. Take the young women of the Westbrook Third Ward, West Jordan Utah Westbrook Stake, for example. They’ve learned to dress and act like clowns, and they take their show on the road to entertain in children’s hospitals, homeless shelters, and even in parades.
Then there are the Laurels in the Bountiful 24th Ward, Bountiful Utah Heights Stake. Not only do they dress like clowns, but they have put together an ingenious washboard band and magic show. They too started performing for the children at a local homeless shelter and have branched out to include other hospitals and medical centers.