Once upon a time, all of the Mormon teens in Southern California gathered every so often in large sports venues for a Dance Festival. These involved thousands of dancers but very little actual dancing – it was really the thrill of seeing herds of people moving in colorful patterns. The most analogous event I can think of is the massive pageants that the North Koreans put on every year to impress foreigners. I’ll leave it to you to mark the irony of comparing an LDS Church event to one sponsored by a brutal Communist dictatorship. All in all, I think the two organizations are radically different, with the exception of their mutual fetish for big, impressive spectacles that require lots of warm bodies.
My singular Dance Festival experience came when I was about fifteen years old. It was held in the Rose Bowl, and I found the whole experience somewhat tedious. I was in two dances – one at the beginning, which included all participants, and then another one where I think I had to wear a red vest. I remember my dance partner was very pretty, and she didn’t like me. That’s about it.
There was one rehearsal before the stadium was filled with 100,000 Mormons listening to a recording of WKRP’s Gordon Jump narrating a retrospective on dancing through the ages. I found the whole thing to be a waste of time, and I shared my surly attitude with two other very pretty girls – Amy and Heather, who were way out of my league, attractiveness-wise. Unlike my dance partner, though, they found me vaguely amusing, because they could get me to do really stupid things just by asking me, because I was so desperate to impress them.
So when the actual event started, they gave me the ultimate dare. And I dared to do it.
All the dancers, at the appointed time, were supposed to pour out of the grandstands from all sides of the arena out onto the football field to form a single, united mass and begin the opening number. This was the only dance in which every dancer participated, and there were several thousand of us. But Amy and Heather thought it would be a good idea if I jumped the gun and ran out on to the field before anyone else. There were ushers and gatekeepers who were supposed to prevent that from happening, but in this instance, they were effectively asleep at their posts. They didn’t anticipate that a goofy, gangly Ichabod Crane lookalike would burst out of the pack and jump out on to the field about thirty seconds before anyone else. After all, we were all Mormons, who did what we were told, right?
Not me, baby.
There I was, in the center of the field, jumping and frolicking and somersaulting in front of 100,000 people who knew I had no business being there. (I may have gamboled, too, but I can’t be sure.) I still remember the rush of being alone on the field in the Rose Bowl, the center of attention with 200,000 eyes fixed on me – assuming everyone there had the use of both eyes. Waves of laughter poured down out of the stands as I made a complete fool out of myself in front of the Mormon horde. Someone in my family – I think it was my mother – was trying to get the people around her to reassure her that that couldn’t possibly be Stallion, could it? She had half a minute or so to go through the five stages of grief before finally accepting the fact that, yes, indeed, her son really was that stupid.
Nobody came out on to the field to get me, because the dance began too quickly thereafter, and I was lost in a sea of dancers, prancers and the occasional mincer.
I told that story for many years thereafter, and in the mid 90s I met a guy who said “My primary teacher told us about you!”
Flattered that my moment of infamy had survived a decade, I asked for more detail.
“She was using you as an example,” he said. “She talked about how you ran out in the center and jumped around because you were like Satan, who wanted to keep all the glory for himself.”
Yes. Yes, I was.