How to Put on a Great Stake Dance


The Winnipeg Manitoba Stake youth have got it together. At a recent stake dance, held in the institute building, there were 50 or more youth—and almost all of them were actually dancing. And guess what else? When a slow song started, the dance floor wasn’t empty! The music was fun and tasteful, the dancing was appropriate, and the decorations were simple but effective. Large paper flowers lined the walls, and beach balls provided constant entertainment as they were swatted around the room from dancer to dancer.

How, you ask, did this stake pull off its successful dance? Well, each month the youth of one of the wards in the stake is in charge. Stake leaders assign the wards at the beginning of the year so there will be lots of time to plan. The Waverley Ward was assigned to this stake dance. Its members started planning about a month in advance, and the first thing they did was decide on a theme—“Hawaiian School’s Out.” The young men were in charge of refreshments, and the young women did the decorating. Then they publicized.

“Do lots of poster advertisements and announcements. Plan ahead. Come up with interesting themes. Maybe a ‘dress as your parents night.’ Make sure you have a good deejay with lots of appropriate music and a large selection,” says David Moore, the teachers quorum president, who helped plan the dance along with the rest of the bishop’s youth council.

Also on the council was Stephen Wood, the stake’s deejay for the dance. The stake has mixers, speakers, and other audio equipment because it doesn’t want to hire disc jockeys anymore. It was too hard to regulate the music selected by hired deejays, and it was also becoming too expensive. So Stephen was put in charge of the music, a very important responsibility, because we all know—besides the fun people, of course—it’s the music that makes or breaks a dance.

Stephen, a priest, had some deejay experience from being in charge of the youth conference dance music. “I talk to people before the dance and see what they want,” he says. But he does have some ground rules. “No swearing or unacceptable lyrics. I haven’t really played anything too heavy. Too heavy or too fast a beat isn’t good.” He usually uses his own CDs, and others bring their CDs to the dance as well.

Not that there’s a problem with inappropriate music requests. Each of the youth is interviewed by his or her bishop or branch president or one of his counselors before they come to the dance. They receive dance cards outlining what standards are expected of them while at the dance, and they need to show those cards before they can get in.

The interviews aren’t stressful. For the most part, the bishop just explains the guidelines for casual versus semi-formal attire, asks you not to dance too close to your partner, and reminds you that drugs and alcohol of any kind won’t be tolerated—things you already know. The interview is just a reminder of the appropriate behavior that will help you have more fun at the dance.

Surrounded by paper flowers and beach balls, everyone line danced, swing danced, and did other dances you might never have seen before. If you had seen how much fun they were having, you would definitely have joined in. Stephen even jumped off the stage once, leaving the deejaying duties to his older brother Richard, while Stephen and a friend taught everyone how to line dance to the song that was playing.

They also played games. There was a hula contest, the limbo (how low can you go?), and a snowball dance. Each time Stephen yelled “snowball” everyone had to trade partners fast!

As fun as all this sounds, you don’t have to go to Manitoba to find a good stake dance. You can make your stake dances the best ever. All you really need to do is go with the attitude that you’re going to have fun and that you’re not going to be a wallflower. And when you’re planning, be sure you follow the guidelines the Church has given for stake dances. Then you’ll have it together too.

[photos] Photography by Christina Smith and Shanna Butler