“Is There Dancing after Disco?” Ensign, July 1981, 75
Nearly everyone over the age of ten in Mesa Sixth Ward, Mesa Arizona North Stake, was there, crowded on the dance floor. Brent Swan, a priest, was dancing with one of the widows in the ward. A high priest, Boyd Steiner, was dancing with the MIA Maid president. The bishop was circling with Cathy White, a Laurel. And a brother-sister team, Doug and Brenda Roberts, were stealing the show.
The occasion was a grand ball in honor of those graduating from high school.
It had started a year earlier when Marion Hammon, the priests quorum president, announced he was tired of disco and wanted to learn conventional dance steps. Twila Hancock and Marion Law, the Young Women and Young Men presidents, teamed up with the activities committee and found ward members to teach the foxtrot, waltz, and swing.
The “dancing” families in the ward were assigned to teach certain nondancing families the three basic steps. As many as seventy attended the eight-week course. Beuna Becker, a talented pianist, provided the music.
The ultimate goal, was “to make dancing a home activity.” And since the young people themselves wanted to learn how to dance, “we decided to place part of the responsibility for teaching them on the shoulders of their own parents,” Sister Hancock explains.
It worked. Dancing was a big hit at the Christmas party. The sesquicentennial ball followed.
The graduation ball began with a grand march. At the conclusion, each member received a dance card to fill up with signatures. Among those attending were Arthur and Georgia Wilson. Their daughter Nancy had joined the Church when she was eight and they had supported her activity but never wished to accompany her. When she begged them to attend the ball where she would be honored, they agreed. Arthur said, “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything in the world.”
Another young man being honored, Jim Holmes, was not a member of the Church, though his parents were. This was his first church activity in eight years; his parents had been fasting and praying for years to know how to help their son. He was baptized a few months later.
Mesa Superintendent of Schools George Smith was an honored guest. As each graduating senior was escorted onto a platform by a parent, a member of the stake presidency read the graduate’s accomplishments and the student filed past to shake hands with the bishopric and Superintendent Smith. Cameras flashed, parents got misty-eyed, and ward members whispered, “I taught that one in Primary.” or “He’s been mowing my lawn for three years now.”
There was self-esteem. There was togetherness as a ward and the delighted realization that dancing can bring unity across differences that used to look like barriers.