Saga of a Wholesome Dance Event

Unitarian Society Cuts Dance Away; Enthusiasts Seek New Location

For nearly 33 years, the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara (USSB) has hosted a three-hour event every Friday called Dance Away. Dance Away has been a fun and relaxing haven, with a deejay, where participants dance freely (dance partners and dress clothes not necessary) in a world where going out to dance on Friday nights has become increasingly less family friendly.

Dance Away is supported by the church, and is a kid-friendly, alcohol-free, smoke-free, and drug-free event. But its saga may be coming to a close. Unfortunately, the Unitarian Society may have held its very last Dance Away on July 27.

The Unitarian Program Council has voted to cut the program. Similar dance events, like Dance Tribe at the Gail Towbes Center have since emerged. Combined with trying economic times, this has led to a decline in Dance Away attendance. According to the Dance Away Web site, the program cost the USSB $1,000 over the past year, and the Unitarian Program Council claimed, “[T]his program was not ‘mission critical,’ lost money, and was using valuable facility space.”

Dance Away found itself in similar dire straights before 1989, when the same issues began to come up regarding attendance and interest; but ideas to cut it were quickly taken off the table when churchgoers rallied behind their Friday night dance event.

Now, another group — the Dance Away Committee — has risen in the advent of Dance Away’s cancellation. The enthusiasts are seeking another home for their decade-long tradition, but so far the hunt has been unsuccessful due to rent costs (which Dance Away didn’t need to consider while it was at USSB).

Dorothy Holland, who serves as the chair of the Dance Away Committee, thinks fondly of her personal experience with Dance Away. “In 1978, when I discovered Dance Away,” she recounted, “my husband of 32 years had just died. Although I have always loved to dance, I never had had a partner. And now, here was an opportunity to dance at my own church, to my heart’s content, by myself!”

She’s seen Dance Away facilitate friendships and love. She knew at least four couples “who met there, and were subsequently married,” said Holland. For her and fellow Dance Away enthusiasts, Friday nights of spontaneous dancing in USSB will be missed and warmly remembered as a weekly sanctuary of wholesome fun.

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