Dinner and Dance Games

Adrea Gibbs
Dancing Couple

It can be challenging, even frustrating, when you have booked a great DJ or put together a fabulous music mix, and everyone sits around like it's a junior high school dance, looking at one another across the room. Having some great dance games planned can get everyone up and moving so that the dance floor starts hopping.

Snowball

This game is a great icebreaker for almost any dinner and dance event. It is a great favorite at weddings too as it works with all ages. Because it begins with a specific couple, for example the bride and groom, anniversary couple, or birthday person and a partner, you can play without any fanfare or pre-planning.

Here's how it works:

  1. One couple, such as the bride and groom or the hosts of the event, begins to dance.
  2. The DJ or host stops the music and calls out "Snowball!"
  3. The dancing couple splits up, and each person selects a new partner, brings them to the floor, and dances.
  4. "Snowball," is called out again and the four people currently dancing split from their partners and each grab a new partner, then continue dancing.
  5. Each time "snowball" is repeated, the current couples split and find new partners, continuing to "snowball" until everyone is on the dance floor.

Tip: For guests with limited mobility, encourage dancers to go out and dance where these guests are seated. If possible, try to move them as close as possible to the dance floor. Then, when "snowball" is called out, it is nice when the ambulatory person can first grab a partner for the seated individual before finding her own new partner. This is great way to make sure that everyone is engaged in the activity.

Songs: As this game rolls out of what begins as a couple's dance, it is appropriate to let the guests of honor select the music they want to use. Music selections can change up frequently too, depending on the number of guests, as there will be a break in the music when people are finding their next partner. Choices like Celebration, Dynamite, Wild Thing, and Love Shack are all songs that make everyone feel like dancing.

Balloon Stomp

Girl with balloons

This game is excellent for mixed ages and particularly good for events like family reunions, birthday parties, and New Year's Eve celebrations. As balloons are often part of the decorations for these events the game balloons can be set up early and fit easily into the theme. You may want to suggest that everyone takes off their shoes for this one since trying to pop a balloon without shoes is much more challenging. It will also hurt less if someone gets carried away and stomps on a few toes.

  1. Each participant receives one balloon tied with a 36" length of ribbon.
  2. Ask everyone to tie the balloon to one of their ankles.
  3. When everyone is ready, ask the group to move out to the dance floor.
  4. When the music starts, everyone begins dancing. At the same time, everyone should try to stomp on and pop someone else's balloon while trying to keep their own balloon from being popped.
  5. The last person with an intact balloon wins.

Balloon Stomp Variations

  • Have the DJ call out different names of dances to change things up like the Twist, Bunny Hop, Sprinkler, and so forth. It can make things more challenging, but also keeps everyone dancing. Have a couple of people act as judges to tag out anyone not performing the identified dance.
  • Play in the same fashion as the original Balloon Stomp, but everyone tries to pop their own balloon. The game is finished when all balloons are popped. This is a great variation for younger children.
  • Start with the same rules as the original Balloon Stomp, but this time everyone partners up and the last team to keep both their balloons from being popped wins.

Songs: The best choice for music for this game is something that is already familiar to the group as a whole. You can use popular songs from different eras like Shout, kids songs like the Hokey Pokey which often make people forget the object of the game while following the steps, or songs like Girls Just Want To Have Fun, which is upbeat and always gets people inspired to move.

Tag the Table

This game works equally well with all ages or adults-only events, so weddings, anniversary parties, reunions, and holiday parties really benefit from the competitive nature of the game. To set it up, place a tent card on each table with the name of a dance (Twist, Cha Cha, Electric Slide, etc.). When the DJ calls out that name, everyone at the table gets up and dances at their seats.

With several ways to play or change up the game, Tag the Table can be changed to suit your gathering.

  1. The DJ can initiate a dance off between two tables with the guest(s) of honor deciding which team wins.
  2. The DJ could call tables out onto the dance floor for the dance off.
  3. The DJ calls "freeze" while a table is dancing and if they move, they are out. (This adds an element of competition - tables can be eliminated in ways like this one until only one table is left, and they are the winners.)

Tip: If you have a really large group of people in attendance, you can keep things moving and more interesting by giving the same dance to two or more tables, and having the tables with the same dances compete against one another.

Songs: If you are going to use specific dances for the challenges, then make sure you have those tunes ready to go. A DJ will be a great help here. Music like The Twist, Macarena, YMCA, and Shake A Tail Feather are all good examples of songs that work well as they are familiar and already have steps that many people know.

Peanut Butter & Jelly

This one does require some preparation, but is a wonderful way to get people mixing especially if they don't know many other attendees. Peanut Butter & Jelly is best for teens and up and is appropriate for almost any occasion.

Preparation

  1. Start with two sticky notepads of the same color.
  2. You are going to be writing pairs of words that go together like cookies and milk, peanut butter and jelly, cat and dog, and so forth. It works best if they are pairings with which your guests will be familiar.
  3. On the first pad, write the words that make up the first half of your pairings, each one on a different sheet. So, using the above examples, you would write cookies, peanut butter, and cat.
  4. On the second pad write the second words of your pairings, in this case milk, jelly, and dog. Each word should be on its own sheet of paper.
  5. Write all the pairs out in the same manner. You will need as many pairs as there are pairs of people in the room. For example: 20 people at the party, making for ten pairs of guests, you will need ten word pairs.
  6. Ask everyone to come onto the dance floor and make a large circle.
  7. Have two people assist and place a sticky note on each person's back. It is really important that the pairings are really mixed up so that you don't end up with matching pairs standing close together.
  8. Ask the two assistants to act as judges for the game.

How to Play

Here's how the game works:

  1. The object of the game is to find your partner. For example, if you have the word cookies it may be paired with the word milk.
  2. You can only ask other people yes and no questions about what is on your back as you try to find you partner.
  3. You must dance the entire time while hunting for your partner.
  4. As soon as you find your partner, continue dancing, but hold hands while trying to get the judges' attention to make sure you are paired correctly.
  5. Judges will acknowledge if you are correctly paired and determine the winners.

After the song or songs end you can have prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places for successful pairing, and consolation prizes for those who are still lost and trying to find their partners.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Variations

  • Stick the notes to guests' foreheads instead of their backs. This is a little easier, but still quite funny
  • Use a theme for the pairings based on your event. For example, if it were a Halloween dance, pairings might include Dracula and Vampira, Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, and Trick and Treat.
  • Use identical words for pairing people up instead of pairs that go together.
  • If you have a very large group, you can use two differently colored sticky note pads and can flip flop some of the pairs to make it more challenging. For example, on the yellow pad you write cookie and on the orange pad your write milk. For your next pair, reverse, writing cookie on orange and milk on yellow. Now the partners will not only have to find their partners, they have to find the partner with the same color sticky note.

Tip: Make sure you keep a close tab on what pairs you are using before you start tagging people. You need to have an even number and you need to make sure that you have matched pairings. Nothing can be more frustrating for someone playing than looking for a partner who is not on the floor. This game does take preparation, but is a great dance mixer.

Songs: You can use any songs for this game, so stick with either the theme of the gathering or the general genre of music that you'll be playing throughout the party.

Musical Partners

This is a circle game that is similar to Musical Chairs without the furniture. It works for any age group, but be forewarned that it can get a little competitive.

  1. Ask everyone to make a large circle on the dance floor.
  2. Have every second person step into the inside of the circle and turn around. You should end up with two circles, one inside the other, with the people in the center circle facing those in the outer circle.
  3. If someone is left over, have them join the outside circle. If the number is even, have one person from the inside circle step into the middle. In both cases, someone on the outside circle will not have a partner.
  4. Now, those in the outer circle should shake hands with the person facing them (there will be one person with no partner).

  5. As the music starts, ask everyone to turn to their right (a quarter turn) and start dancing as they move forward in the circle. The inside circle will be dancing clockwise and the outer circle will be traveling counterclockwise.
  6. The person in the middle flags to the DJ when he or she wants the music to stop.
  7. When the music stops everyone must shake the hand of the person directly across from them and introduce themselves.
  8. Whoever does not have a partner moves to the center of the circle switching places with the person in the center.
  9. The new person in the center flags to the DJ to begin the music again and the game continues in the same fashion.

This is a great way to mix people up and get everyone involved. It works well to plan on doing five to six rounds, but if people are enjoying themselves you may want to go longer.

Songs - Pull out songs from the 50's for this one as the bouncy energy will get everyone going. Think Rock Around the Clock, Chantilly Lace, La Bamba, and Peggy Sue.

Huggy Bear

The object of this game is simple. As everyone is dancing, the DJ will stop the song and everyone must find someone to hug. Anyone without a partner will go to the front and when the music starts up will get to direct the DJ when to stop the music.

Huggy Bear is great for all ages combined though the variations work best with teens and adults.

  1. Bring everyone out to the dance floor and explain the rules.
  2. When the music stops, each person needs to find someone to hug. Hugging people are safe.
  3. The last person without a partner to hug comes to the front of the room.
  4. The DJ starts the music again and reminds everyone they will need to find someone different the next time.
  5. The person at the front indicates when to stop the music.

Huggy Bear Variations

  • The DJ can call out different numbers for groupings, such as three, so groups must have three people hugging.
  • The DJ can call out for people to find someone wearing the same color, or the same height, etc.

Tip: If people are reluctant to hug because it is a newer group of acquaintances, it can be changed to an elbow touch or handshake.

Songs: Using songs with a "bear" theme is always fun for this one, particularly if kids are playing. Hearing Bear Necessities, Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear, I Am A Gummy Bear, or Teddy's Bear's Picnic may have people laughing as much as dancing.

Broom Dance

In this game, one person is given a broom with which to dance. You can dress up the broom in an outfit to add a bit of comedy if you like. This game usually works best for all ages, though small kids may have trouble keeping the broom upright.

  1. Ask everyone to find a dance partner. One person without a partner gets the broom.
  2. Begin dancing (including the person who has the broom for a partner).
  3. When the music stops, the person dancing with the broom puts it down and everyone finds a new partner, someone with whom they have not yet danced.
  4. Someone will be left alone and will now have to dance with the broom.

Broom Dance Variation

  • You can change this one a little by asking that the person with the broom start dancing first before the DJ has everyone else start. This is particularly fun if all the guests are familiar with one another.

Tip: Mark out or tape a large square to the center of the dance floor for the broom dance area. You can also place a chair in the center of the floor and ask that the broom be leaned against the chair when changing partners. The marking or the chair will highlight where the broom remains as people are changing partners so the are can be avoided.

Songs: You can choose to mix up the music quite a bit for this one, but often the best choices are waltzes or slow dances that are familiar. For those who are adventurous, the "change partners" can be signaled via musical cue with a silly song like Yakety Sax that clearly indicates an urgent change is in order.

After the Dance Game

To keep the crowd moving, be ready to go into a popular dance such as The Chicken Dance, YMCA, Hokey Pokey, Macarena, or other popular line or group dance when the games are finished. This will keep the enthusiasm elevated and guests will be more inclined to stay on the floor and continue dancing. With good planning and great music selections, you can keep the party going all night long.

Dinner and Dance Games