Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart


The Big Dance

from the dress to the dinner: tips to survive any school dance

Brittany Landorf

Picture a gladiator gathering his gear. He stoically assembles the tools and attire needed for the night ahead. Glancing grimly into the mirror and arranging his face into a perpetual smile/grimace, he enters into the lion’s den. This is the exact trepidation and girdling of loins that the chorus of dances, from middle school on to that final senior prom, result in.

The excitement of the very first Halloween or Valentine dance is a fluke, the result of immature and unseasoned eyes. By the time you hit high school you are viewing all dances, especially the more formal ones, with a panic bordering on hysteria.

It is not just the tedious amount of work that goes into dances – buying the overpriced dress you cannot live without that will only be worn once, searching for a date, planning a group, and scheduling a time for pictures with pairs of frazzled parents. That’s as if the lion fell asleep compared to the roaring angry beast that emerges when you actually arrive at the dance and embark on surviving the next five hours of banal, clichéd music coupled with roving chaperones and the devilish behavior that takes place on the floor.

To prevent the unmitigated endless hours spent tearing hair out, we have compiled a guaranteed boredom- and gaffe-free list that will guide you through all the Sadie Hawkins, winter carnival, and prom dances that your heart may or may not desire.


  • If the dress is over $100, it’s probably not worth it.
  • Heels are fine for pictures, but tennis shoes are positively a must for dances. Canvas Chuck Taylors are comfortable, cute, and prevent bare feet from being stampeded by hundreds of overeager dancers.
  • The only dance that truly requires a long dress is prom; in every other case go for chic with a short dress.
  • Time bathroom breaks and drinking fountain trips with cha-cha slide or cliché country song.
  • If you’re going with a date, think about taking a dance class beforehand to spice up the night. Throw in some classy twirls and spins as change from the norm of swaying and grinding.
  • Dress ridiculous for themes. Channel peacocks or live by the never-fail rule of spandex, spandex, spandex.
  • It is acceptable to do the asking. Sometimes it’s downright necessary.


  • During the slow dances, slip into the middle of the crowd to avoid the chaperones that tend to patrol the dark corners. 
  • Avoid the punch bowl and the guy that brought the peach schnapps. You’ll end up with puke on or near you, either way.
  • Abandon the stoic male face and let loose.
  • Remember to check on the dress code before attending, items such as kilts or spandex suits may not be allowed.
  • Be very, very careful when pinning the corsage/boutonniere. Puncture wounds are never good.
  • Stairway to Heaven is not slow dance material. If you try, you’re gonna look stupid about five minutes in.
  • Girls are generally as nervous as guys about finding someone to dance with, so be bold and don’t be afraid of asking, “Shall we dance?”
  • If you have a live band at your dance, there’s like a 5 percent chance that the lead guitar player will injure his hand, at which point you must shred some tunes from the future while he calls his cousin Chuck Berry.
  • The average ability of a teenager or college student being able to dance is not high, which means that whatever your level is you’ll always be accepted. Think Napoleon Dynamite. 
  • Bring along breath mints.


  • When picking places to eat beforehand, choose something with a big line. That way you arrive to the dance several hours late. Olive Garden, Shanghai Bistro, and TGI Fridays are always popular.
  • Before going into the dance, engineer signals with friends to have an exit plan for undesired dancing. 
  • Dance crazy. You’re much safer doing so in a group, because those people already accept you. Plus the more carefree you are, the more fun you have. I’m pretty sure it was, like, Newton’s second law.
  • Abandon all standards at the door. That way you won’t be shocked or disappointed.
  • Carpe diem. Dance and sing your heart out to every song – well, maybe not Cotton-Eyed Joe.
  • Have a fun destination in mind after the dance. Whether it’s Perkins or a friend’s house, you get to avoid going home either way!
  • No matter how good it sounds at the time, never, ever, work out a group dance routine. I don’t care if it’s line dancing or the exact dance from a Backstreet Boys video. (Exception: Thriller is acceptable.)


Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

Chippewa Valley Technical College

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.