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Monday, October 24, 2005 

Ritualistic Torture

We dance. Mormons dance. The pioneers danced across the plains. Our grandparents and great-grandparents dressed to the nines for the annual Gold and Green Ball, our parents boogied to great bands even at BYU (like the Fifth Dimension…can you imagine a 20 jam session on “Age of Aquarius”?...my parents were there, man!), and all my brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins attended local stake dances across the country. Like I said, we Mormons…dance.

Then there is me. I AM a dancer. Ballet, tap, jazz, modern, ballroom: you name it. But I HATED stake dances. HATED.

When you turn 14, you are allowed to attend the regional dances sponsored and held at local Mormon churches. In Utah, your region, or stake, may include 4 or five blocks in your neighborhood. Where I grew up, it covered half the state, literally.

I remember being 14 and driving to the monthly dance in New Jersey with my older sister and brother. We would have to drive about an hour to get to any other church besides our own chapel, and I loved the anticipation of something fun that was just around the corner.

But when we got to the dance, the older brother and sister would promptly disappear into the crowd in search of their various friends, and I would be stranded in the dark looking for a familiar and/or friendly face.

Then there was the dancing. I HATE THAT KIND OF DANCING. I can’t do it. I still can’t get over myself. I can’t shut out the feeling that I’m being watched while I dance. I feel silly shaking and side-stepping and pumping my fists. What are you supposed to do with your hands while you dance? I wished I could have worn mittens.

What happened to the good-old-days where the dances were named: “oh, that’s the mashed potato….now, she’s doing the twist…” In my day, the named dances were a joke: the running man, the Roger Rabbit… We did those for about 5 seconds at a time to be silly. What was supposed to fill all that time out there?! And what about dancing with a partner? Rocking in a circle with a boy with sweaty hands while feverishly trying to think of something to say or ask while trying not to breathe on him or be breathed upon!!!


I used to bring a book with me to stake dances as a back-up. For a couple of years there in Massachusetts I was on a stake youth committee; they had the youth in the stake plan ALL the activities: dances, youth conference, mini-missions, temple trips… When no one was looking, when I wasn’t MC-ing, I would sneak out to the mother’s lounge and read for as long as my conscious would allow me before guilt would drive me back in to check on things and make sure every one was having a good time and dancing. I felt compelled to peel the wall-flowers from the perimeter and help them have a good time when I myself wanted nothing more than to leave tire tracks in the parking lot.

I’m not trying to be some kind of martyr…dances just make me feel uncomfortable. Don’t even get me started on Homecomings and Proms…

But the BEST part of the dances was coming home. Sitting in the dark in the back seat of the gray Volvo, mix tape in the deck, brother and sister silent, musing, rolling New England countryside sliding past…that felt like Heaven.

I simply refused to go to any dances after the first two were miserable experiences. I have no regrets about ditching them.

There are still church dances held at my singles ward and I absolutely refuse to go. It's just so bizarre...no one dances, and if they do, it's some bizarre throwing of the body around in circles without any sense of form or rhythym. It frightens me. Whenever one of the RS girls tries to persuade me into going, she will always say, "There's a church dance! You should go, it'll be fun." And I will reply, "Church dance and fun are two phrases that do not go together."

Does anyone like these awkward experiences?

After moving to Utah when I was 15 stake dances became a sore point with my parents. I hated, loathed and despised them, my parents wanted me to be more sociable. Eventually they bribed my siblings into going (promising a new violin, computer games, etc) while threatening to revoke my driving privileges if I didn't go. It was so bad that they would actually turn up half way through a dance to make sure I was still there.

I got through them by complaining about the music choices, sketching and avoiding a creepy boy who always wanted to dance with me.

Side issue... is everyone in Utah taught the Electric Slide when they are infants?

New Jersey IS 1/2 a state! 8-)

Here in the UK there's something of a trend of people jiving at Church dances. It's great!

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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