Instead of Chinese food and a movie, 130 Jewish singles chose another way of enjoying Christmas Eve: they attended the third annual DecaDANCE at the St. Louis Airport Marriott. “It’s a great way to connect with Jewish friends,” attendee Bob Kornblum said. “I came to see friends I haven’t seen in a while.”
The party-goers ranged in age from 20-somethings to 60-somethings and from never-marrieds to recently-divorceds. Sam Goldstein, a 50-something, attended the event for the first time and was checking out the singles scene.
“I’m recently single and came to meet someone to date,” he said. For some people it was an alternative to an otherwise traditionally quiet night. “This is my first dance,” Bob Spiegelman, another 50-something, said. “It was something to do…to meet people.”
Most of the attendees were either gathered around Mike Geerlof, who was making balloon art, and Aaron Goldstein, known as the Magic Man, or on the dance floor. Dance motivators kept up the festive atmosphere by leading attendees in line dances or by encouraging people to get on the dance floor. The music by Utopia Entertainment provided party-goers with plenty of opportunities to fill up their dance cards.
“This was the best DecaDANCE we’ve done so far,” said Michelle Gralnick, executive director of B’nai B’rith St. Louis, Missouri Lodge #22, Singles Division, and “50 Something” Group. “The music was much better than in the past and the dance motivators did a good job of making people feel less self-conscious about dancing. I’m very happy with Utopia.” She says she received a lot of good feedback from people who enjoyed the balloon artist and taking home an inflated souvenir.
However, not all was perfect. “I was disgusted with a group of a dozen Jewish 40- and 50-year-olds who tried to crash the party,” Gralnick said. “I, along with people on the committee, had to spend a lot of time policing the event to make sure this group of people didn’t sneak into the dance without paying.” Managing the party-crashers took time away from what the committee members should have been doing: facilitating introductions or telling people about B’nai B’rith and the programs it offers. “We had to keep our eyes on them because if we turned out backs, they tried to sneak in. Our whole role is to play host and hostess especially at a singles event where people may be coming alone and need us to welcome them and make them feel comfortable,” Gralnick said.
This attempt to sneak into the party also annoyed those who did pay to attend. “I would love it if everyone got together and just came in,” Claudia Hirst, first-time party attendee, said. “People need to support the community. This dance should be about making connections, having fun, and being with friends.” Gralnick says the committee has already made plans to prevent such occurrences at future dances.
For those who did attend the event, many of them expressed a desire to see more people come to this annual party. However, some people thought the price might have discouraged other singles from attending. Gralnick says that more support from the community would allow organizers to lower the entry fee which might attract more folks who are on the fence about attending. “We cannot possibly lower the price until we get support from other community organizations and congregations,” Gralnick said. “If every organization that has a singles program in St. Louis had come onboard as a partner, we could have offered a negligible cost. DecaDANCE is not a fund raiser for us…it’s a break-even event.”
In addition to financial support, she would like to see organizations promote the event to their constituencies to make it a true community-wide event. Paula Sparks, with Sparks Matchmaking, which was a partner for the dance, said that the event served a vital purpose.
“It’s very important that we help Jewish singles meet one another,” she said. “We need to perpetuate our religion, heritage and culture by facilitating introductions.”
Rosanne Tessler, program director of MatchBook, an introduction service sponsored by Temple Israel, echoed Sparks sentiments. “We’re all working for the same goal which is to introduce Jewish singles to each other because that only strengthens the Jewish community,” Tessler said. She felt the evening was a success and that people seemed to be having a good time dancing.
Gralnick says she is grateful for this year’s sponsors of DecaDANCE: the Fox Family Foundation, B’nai El Congregation, Matchbook, and the JCC. The sponsorships allow the organizers to cover the costs of the food and entertainment. The dance was co-presented by B’nai B’rith St. Louis and the St. Louis Jewish Light.