Barbara writes:

Has Circle of Sisters ever discussed the environment of LDS youth dances? What level of lighting is appropriate? How loudly should music be played? What experiences have your readers had with providing alternate activities (such as games and service projects) for youth who don't want to dance?

Jeannie says:

I'm going to be of little help here. Our teenagers' dancing years were spent in another country where customs are different. Lights, music, decibel levels were not an issue. Activities were done in groups and dances usually included all willing adults. It was “cool” to dance, even with the mom or your best friend.

I did make a few phone calls to folks with that stewardship and got some very interesting responses. One sister had been a member of the stake Young Women leadership for three years. She said that lights were fully up on the stage and in corridors. Cultural hall lighting was a little lower to create the atmosphere of a dance. From my own experience back when dinosaurs roamed the earth I do remember that as the lights got dimmer, we became bolder and danced just a little closer. Our leaders used the lights as a measuring stick and in spite of our protests, kept the level fairly high.

This same sister described the music at stake dances as being “comfortably loud.” No one asked that it be cranked up any louder, so it was probably OK. She mentioned that GAP store background music was much louder. Their stake hired some LDS DJ's who did a great job of playing favorite dance songs which met with Church standards. The biggest problem stakes in this area are having is, of all things: attendance. There are so many alternative activities that monopolize evenings, actual dancing youth are at a premium. The best-attended stake dance during her service was a whopping 30. I ?m sure that in communities not predominantly LDS, attendance is much greater.

As far as alternative activities for non-dancers are concerned, if it is a stake dance, all leaders with whom I spoke asked, What is the point? ? A dance is just that: a dance. Ward level dance activities are a little different, especially for beehives and scouts. Alternate activities must be an option. It ?s not a matter of not wanting to dance, but rather that it is not appropriate to attend dances at this age level. I ?m sure that there is a wealth of ideas out there and am anxious to hear what our readers have to contribute on the subject of light deficiency, noise pollution, and non-“dancer” reindeer games.

Kathy says:

Thanks for the question, Barbara. The choice of music, the decibel level, and certainly the lighting surely call for an emergency “dancer answer.” I think our readers can help us right away. This is a very important issue. Of course, we want them to associate with LDS peers and leaders as much as possible, for all the obvious reasons, even while courtship is still several years away. But we are shooting ourselves in the foot if we try to make our events as much like the “competition” as possible. If our kids are partying in places that are dark, with music that ?s lewd, loud, or loutish (or all three!), and the “activities” are those that tend to attract police contact, then we do not want to compete with this environment in order to coax our kids to attend. For high school kids and many institute kids, the purpose of a youth dance is to dance or hang out in a positive environment not to snuggle with Sister Wright.

I think it ?s always thoughtful for a host, especially of youth, to provide a range of activities to suit the guests. I like the idea of board games and puzzles on the tables that surround the dance floor, for kids who like to hang out but are afraid to dance or just don ?t want to be quite that assertive. Dancing isn ?t the natural expression of sociality in our culture that it is in many others, to our huge detriment. I wish it were otherwise, but alas, many of us simply can ?t dance and feel like idiots on the dance floor. We should learn. But it might take a few exposures to the art, to get the nerve. Nothing wrong with going to a lot of dances before we eventually muster the courage to try actual dancing.

Meanwhile, the hall needs to be bright, the music light, and the activities right. We are not interested in providing alternate raves for our precious youth.