Dance, Dance, Dance


It’s the big night. Think you can’t go because you have nothing to wear? Can’t afford it? Won’t have fun? Think again.

So this is it. You’re finally 16 and old enough to go on a date. It’s prom time, and you can’t wait.

But maybe, after a little investigation, you have decided that prom isn’t such a great idea because of the fact that you could feed a small nation for a few years for what the prom costs. Or maybe prom is just a code word for “drinking party” at your school. Maybe the prom’s okay, but there’s pressure to go to after-prom parties that encourage behavior that is against your standards.

So, what’s a guy or girl to do? Maybe you don’t care that much about what is really just another school dance with fancy clothes. New Era readers outside the United States are probably a little mystified about the prom and what a big deal it seems to be. On the other hand, getting dressed up and practicing your “company manners” every once in a while can be a lot of fun. That’s why a special dance at the church can be the perfect solution—it’s always affordable and you can be sure the atmosphere will be wholesome.

Read on for ways to make Church dance activities fun, safe, and spiritually sound. Keep an open mind; some of the suggestions might seem a little unconventional, but fun sometimes comes in the most unexpected ways.

Budget blast

Youth in Fargo, North Dakota, know how to live within their means. When their leaders announced they were going to have a stake-sponsored formal dance, they were excited. Then the leaders dropped the bomb: No one could spend more than five dollars on what they wore to the dance.

“When I heard we could only spend five dollars, I was a bit skeptical,” says Becky LaDuke, a Mia Maid. “But I found two great dresses at a thrift store, and it only cost me four dollars. I guess you don’t have to have a lot of money to have a good time, because I had a blast.”

People found different ways to adhere to the budget rule. Some borrowed clothes from friends, others remade thrift-store items, and a few wore things they already had in their closets. A couple of enterprising priests even secured a matching set of powder-blue tuxedos from the school’s drama department costume collection.

The dance was a huge success, proving that low-budget doesn’t have to mean no fun.

The no-pressure approach

Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a great place to be a member of the Church. That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges, though. Members are few and far between, so the youth are spread out among different high schools. That means at school activities, dances included, Church members are scattered.

“The atmosphere at a Church dance is so much better than at a school dance,” says Stephen Mitchell, a priest. “I’m better friends with the people here. At school dances there’s music with dirty lyrics and people dressed immodestly. Here, we just have a good time.”

The leaders of the Chattanooga stake decided that, in addition to the regular stake dances, they would hold a special stake event once a year for the priests and Laurels. And unlike dances the rest of the year, the youth don’t get involved in the planning. Instead, the dance’s theme, menu, decorations, and music are a complete surprise to everyone attending—a gift from the leaders to the youth.

But the greatest thing about the dance is that it’s a no-stress event. Dates aren’t allowed, so everyone just comes and has a good time dancing with everyone else. The stake budget covers all the costs, so everyone can afford it. And the dress code is nice but not necessarily formal, so everyone dresses up, but no one has to spend money on something they’ll seldom wear again.

“This is the first year I have been able to come,” says Lisa Mitchell. “I’m so excited! There’s a prom coming up at my school, and all my friends are stressed out about it. But here, we’re all more natural. We can just be ourselves.”

Doing it their way

Youth in the Roswell Georgia Stake wanted to have a fancy stake dance, too. So they proposed the idea to their leaders, but were disappointed to find that there wasn’t a free day on the stake calendar or any money in the stake budget. Still, they knew there must be a way to have a fun activity that wouldn’t compromise their standards.

So instead of giving up, the youth and their leaders put their heads together. They decided that, even if they couldn’t have a stake event, there was no reason they couldn’t throw a Church-standards dance on their own at one of the church buildings in the stake. They were careful to invite all the youth in the stake so no one was left out. They also left the door open for youth to bring nonmember friends if they were willing to agree to keep Church standards of dress and behavior. With the help of their parents and using several of the techniques listed in this article, they had great success.

“I have never had so much fun,” says Lindsay Menden, a Laurel. “It was a great chance for us to have fun and keep our standards.”

Just like old times

Going to a nice dance is an old tradition that can be very enjoyable, and there’s no reason you can’t keep the tradition alive. Dances can create good memories to have the rest of your life, especially if you’re in a place that is pleasant and comfortable.

Keeping costs in line, clothing modest, and music appropriate helps everyone have a good time. So be creative!

Whether you’re in blue jeans or formal dress, the people you’re with and the kind of environment you’re in are what make an evening enjoyable. And that’s what it’s all about.

Keeping Costs Low

Having a stake-sponsored formal or semiformal dance can be a lot of fun. However, a special dance must fit into your ward or stake’s budget guidelines, so you must be creative in your efforts to keep costs low. Here are some strategies:

  • Serve simple refreshments. A dinner is a great plus for a fancy dance, but if your budget won’t allow it, serve only snacks or dessert.

  • Borrow, borrow, borrow. Decorations make the difference between a once-a-year special event and any other stake dance. However, decorations can be very pricey, so look around you and see what people would be willing to lend. House plants, Christmas tree lights, silk flowers, and tablecloths are great ways to dress up the cultural hall and are usually available from people’s homes. Be sure that you put someone in charge of returning everything.

  • Be your own deejay. Does your stake have a sound system of some kind that you can use? Get together with your friends and pool your musical resources. Playing your own music allows you to choose what you and your friends really like, and helps ensure that the music played meets Church standards.

  • Have a volunteer photographer. Almost every stake has a budding photographer who has a nice camera and a tripod. Ask him to volunteer his services for the night. Buy him several rolls of good quality film, and you’re ready to go. A corner of the dance floor decorated so that people can pose for pictures adds a professional touch.

  • Restrict the guest list. If you’re planning a special-event dance on a limited budget, you might consider inviting only priests and Laurels. That way costs are lower and the younger youth have something to look forward to when they get older.

To Date or Not to Date?

Before your 16th birthday, of course, dating isn’t an option. But what about after? A fancy date like the prom can sometimes lead to pairing off, and it almost inevitably costs a lot of money. Here are some ideas about how to keep a prom date fun and affordable:

  • Go in groups. Even if you ask someone to attend the prom with you, try to double, triple, or even quadruple date. More people mean more conversation and more people to dance with.

  • Dress smart. Half the fun of a fancy dance is dressing up, but it can cost a fortune. Look for bargains at regular stores and thrift stores. If you’re a young woman, perhaps you and your friends can arrange a “dress swap.” Everyone brings dresses they’ve already worn and trades. It’s free and extends the use of a dress that might only be worn once or twice.

    If you’re a young man, can you wear the coat and tie you wear to church? Does your local tux shop offer discounts to good students? Shop around.

  • Eat at home. Enlist the help of your mom or some other good cook you know. Hire your little sister to be your waitress, set the table nicely, and voila! It’s your own restaurant with the best food—and prices—in town.

  • Have photographic memories. But do it smartly. Would snapshots be just as good as a professional photo at the dance? If not, choose an economical package; you’ll probably only want one for yourself and just a few to give away.

[photos] Photography by Lisa M. G. Crockett and courtesy of Fargo North Dakota Stake and Roswell Georgia Stake

[photos] To stay within budget guidelines, youth in North Dakota borrowed clothes from friends, family, and even the school drama department (pages 20–21). Dancers in Atlanta (right) had valet parking (below), compliments of their stake leaders.

[photos] Having a chance to be with good friends in a fun environment, whether the dress code is fancy or not, is the best part of any dance. And having a dance that’s safe and appropriate will make the occasions like the ones on these pages memories that will last a lifetime.