At Camp, We Dance!

Does your camp constantly break out into spontaneous dance parties?


Yep, mine too.

How amazing is that?

There have been many times I’ve gotten a kick out of it; there was one summer when we had to explain to the staff that no, we can’t program in “spontaneous dance parties” because that’s just not how spontaneity works; it’s been a running joke ever since.

When we do have actual, legitimate spontaneous dance parties they are a phenomenal energy builder, a 5 – 15 minute dance party between programs or when everyone is feeling low energy (like on a rainy day) is a huge moral booster!


There was also the summer (many moons ago, at my old camp) that the ACD and I gave the staff 15 minutes of down time while we went to set up the evening activity – which was going to be a team building session.

When we returned to fetch them we could hear the music long before we got to the building, then we could see jumping and dancing through the windows before we entered.

We walked into pure pandemonium, there was a high energy dance party going down, they were dancing on tables, on chairs, and bopping all around the floor.

We both burst out laughing (then we politely asked them to carefully step down from the tables and chairs if they were going to continue dancing… then we used that as an excellent example during a risk management session later that week… but I digress)

We put our team building session on hold, because they were bonding on their own, in a way they came up with, and in a way that works.

And it’s not just my camp – camp communities everywhere experience this amazing ritual.

In fact, here’s a photo from Rusja Foster from over at Summer Camp Secrets of her camp having some dance party fun! (By the way, if you haven’t been over to Summer Camp Secrets, I strongly recommend you stop by. It’s a great site, you won’t be disappointed. AND I just found out that Rusja recently wrote a book!!! I’m excited for her and can’t wait to check it out, you should too!)

Summer Camp Secrets Dance Party.jpg

Photo credit: Summer Camp Secrets

So, why is it important that we dance at camp?

Because it tells us a lot about the type of environment we’ve created.

Dancing is an expression of joy, people feel compelled to move their bodies to the music, to jump around, to clap their hands and stomp their feet. And at camp, this happens often.

It tells me that campers and staff alike feel comfortable at camp. They aren’t feeling self-conscious, they recognize that they’re in a safe place where they don’t have to think about dancing the “right” way, and they feel joyful.

worm dance

Campers learning to do “the worm”

I went back into my camp photos and found this gem of some campers learning how to do “the worm” at a dance about 10 years ago (although the date is a little off… it wasn’t winter time) it’s a great photo because these kiddos are trying something new (and hard! at least it’s hard to me… I can’t do it.. haha) and they are not one bit concerned about who’s watching, or even how good they are, they just wanted to try.

I’ve seen so many campers and staff come out of their shell over the years at camp, and dancing is one of the (many, many) reasons it happens – and it is also the way we know that it’s happening!!

Here’s what I mean, camp cultivates confidence and independence. We know this.


How it helps to create confidence:

By stepping out of their comfort zone in a safe place where they won’t be judged or ridiculed campers and staff gain confidence, and they stop worrying so much about what others are thinking. For some, leaving their comfort zone might mean scaling a climbing wall, while for others it might be something as simple as getting up off of the bench during a dance.


How it becomes a measure of confidence:

We also see it WHEN campers and staff are starting to gain some confidence. When that person who sort of shuffled from side to side and clapped their hands around waist hight while cringing the entire time at the beginning of the summer suddenly starts bopping to the beat a little more and more as the summer goes on, until finally they’re waiving their hands in the air, doing spins and dips, and doing some pretty intricate footwork that you just KNOW they’ve practiced in front of their bedroom mirror, you know that camp’s had an impact on them (and yes, I’m totally thinking of one counsellor in particular, it was amazing… he was a little flower – although I’ve seen this type of thing MANY times over the years).

Dancing may not be what CAUSED the confidence boost but it is definitely a great way to see a physical change based on someone’s emotional state.

dance lessons

This is an old photo of us “teaching dance lessons”

At my old camp, we used to dress up and teach dance lessons before the big end of session dance. We did this to let the campers know that they didn’t have to take themselves too seriously, and also to share some of our sweet, sweet moves.

But seriously, for campers who were still feeling shy or nervous that they ‘didn’t know how to dance’ (although we can agree that there’s no right way). We would teach them the lawnmower, the shopping cart, the running man, stayin’ alive, the fishing rod, wash the dishes, step through the window, and any other moves that either already exist or that we made up on the spot. Then everybody was bopping around the dance floor pulling the cord on their lawnmower and feeling pretty good about it.

It’s such a simple concept. It’s such a simple act. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, and it’s just so darn fun!! The most important thing is that it will have a huge impact on your camp culture – and energy levels!!

So crank up the music (my camp seems to favour 90’s pop music – lots of boy bands and spice girls, much to my dismay) and get your campers and staff moving to the beat!


If I had the chance

What are your favourite songs to dance to at camp? Do you have any signature moves you like to teach your campers? Tell me all about it in the comment section below.

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