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.