Middle School Dance Ideas and Themes

middle school themes ideas planning tips junior high danceAh, middle school dances — music, punch and awkwardness galore. If you’re tired of the same old balloons-in-the-school-gym routine, try one of these fresh ideas to liven up your dance and make it a night to remember! 

Ideas for Fall Formals

Looking to throw a fall dance that goes beyond basic dance themes? Or is a little less “romantic” and more activity-based for the younger set? Try out some of these ideas. 

  1. A Night at the Carnival - Nothing screams fall like a carnival. This theme could include treats like cotton candy, popcorn, caramel apples and funnel cake, along with lots of red-and-white striped decorations. Plan activities that draw on carnival-style booths such as fortune telling, face painting, ring toss and balloon dart throwing. To go even bigger, rent a dunk booth to soak the principal!
  2. A Royally Fun Night - Fall makes everything a bit regal — especially the trees. Transport your budding kings and queens to a faraway kingdom with gauzy décor, including golden plates and goblets for a fall feast. Hand out crowns and tiaras, or stock a photo booth with fun props like scepters, robes and a throne to add to the fun. You can even host a dance contest, and have a knighting ceremony for the warrior princesses and princes who can really break it down!
  3. Dance for a Cause - Fall means fundraising, and fundraising means dancing with a purpose. Your school’s dance can provide an excellent way to raise funds for school programs or a special community need. Seek neighborhood business participation for donations and sponsorships. Donate all or a portion of ticket proceeds to a charity that students determine beforehand.
  4. Make it Magical - Halloween is the perfect time to decorate with cards and top hats stuffed with silver tissue and toy rabbits. Give chaperones black capes and magic wands. Snacks can include fortune cookies, magic beans (jelly beans), club, heart, diamond and spade-shaped sandwiches and a magic potion punch surrounded in smoke (dry ice). Hire a magician to perform some tricks in between dance numbers.
  5. Costume Contest - To add a little flair to your dance, encourage everyone to dress up and hold a costume contest. Decorate with simple Halloween decorations. If you’re looking for activities, try having a mini-talent show where students can perform talents as their character.

Recruit volunteers for a Halloween dance planning committee with a sign up! SAMPLE

A Winter’s Ball

Check out these simple, classy winter ideas if you’re looking to throw a more upscale affair. 

  1. Winter Wonderland - This one’s a classic dance theme for a reason — you can never go wrong with a simple snow theme. Create your own winter wonderland with fake cotton snow and shimmering snowflakes that will have students feeling like they just stepped into a fairytale! For a new twist on an old idea, hand out free Sno-cones.
  2. Fire and Ice - In the case of the average tween, their mood may reverse directions at a moment’s notice. Warm up the winter and celebrate the best of both worlds with a fire and ice theme. Split your venue down the middle and dress it up red and blue! For food, try a mix of hot, spicy foods and cold, sweet desserts for a fun mix.
  3. A Star-Studded Evening - Throw it back to Old Hollywood with this dance idea. Decorate with lots of stars, and class it up with a black and white color scheme. Create an Oscar backdrop for photo opportunities and hand out awards trophies with categories such as best dancer, best dramatic entrance, best supporting actor/actress and more.
  4. All That Glitters - Your dance is sure to shimmer and sparkle with this gold and silver theme. Light up the chilly night with mirrors, foil banners and string lights. Try some sparkly sprinkles on the food too — and make it all gold and silver selections. Glitter is a must, but make sure any you use is glued onto decorations or you’ll have a mess to clean up later!
  5. Sugar Plum Nights - In keeping with the winter season, model your dance around The Nutcracker ballet. Decorate with various Nutcracker dolls, ballerina accessories and silhouette cutouts and gauze with pastel-colored ribbons. Center food around the various countries and the treats that appear in the Sugar Plum fairy dance.
Sunday School Church class party sign up sheet

Spring Dance Ideas

As students begin to get antsy for summer and the flowers start to bloom, a spring dance is the perfect dance to go a little more decorative and blow off some steam. 

  1. Paris at Night - If you’re looking for a classy and simple theme, try Paris. Decorate with lots of white gauze, ivy and string lights and make some cardboard Eiffel towers. You can have pastries and cakes for the buffet — or even be ironic and have French fries and French toast! For fun, add a photo booth with fake berets and baguettes to pose with.
  2. The City Never Sleeps - A big city theme is easy and a lot of fun! To decorate, backlight cardboard skylines and stick with a silver and black color scheme. Even your food can have a metropolitan feel. For punch, how about Big Apple juice? Cookies decorated to look like skyscrapers are a plus!
  3. Days in the Sun - If you’re looking for a more casual theme, make the dance beachy and breezy! Girls can wear sundresses while guys don Hawaiian shirts, and you can decorate with palm trees and other sand and surf décor. Serve tropical snacks and punch with crazy straws and host hula-hoop contests and games for extra fun! Your guests are sure to get excited for summer.
  4. Gals, Guys and Gardens - With spring comes flowers, and what better to decorate with? Turn your venue into a garden with lots of fake ivy and flowers (real or faux) everywhere — in vases and vines! For food, flower-shaped cookies or typical garden party finger food will have your guests feeling upscale. A photo booth full of bouquets and flower crowns will have students lining up for pictures.
  5. Easter Egg Palooza - A springtime Easter theme is a little more low-key if you’re working with a tight budget. Hide eggs everywhere with prizes inside and decorate with pastels and stuffed bunnies. Bonus: you won’t have to make a lot of decorations — just ask your parent volunteers to bring extras from home!

Gather parent volunteeres for the night of the big dance! SAMPLE

Themed Dances

Change it up and host a dance that goes above and beyond while being casual and a lot of fun. 

  1. Around in the World in a Night - Can’t decide on just one theme? Take your dance global with an around-the-world theme, decorating different corners of the room to look like different countries or monuments. For extra fun, play music from all over the world, and host a buffet where students can try new cuisine.
  2. A Night at the Masquerade - For more fun — and less fear — have a masquerade ball! Encourage homemade masks with prizes for the most creative, but also provide masks for the less Pinterest-inclined. For décor, simple Mardi Gras beads and bright colors will make sure your masks take center stage. For safety, prohibit masks that completely hide someone’s face, and keep the venue well lit.
  3. Make it Glow - A glow-in-the-dark dance is fun, timeless and cheap. Incorporate your theme by having a face painting station with glow paints, handing out glow bracelets and necklaces as admission tickets or tossing glow-in-the-dark beach balls onto the dance floor!
  4. Sock it, Hop it - Party like it’s 1950 with this dance theme! Bring on the poodle skirts and leather jackets, and recruit some students to teach vintage dances to classic songs. An ice-cream sundae bar & some fake jukeboxes (made from cardboard) can add to the feel!
  5. Party Like It’s 1991, and 92, and 93 … - Take it back to the ‘90s with this funky dance! Play music from the decade, and have students dress like ‘90s icons like Cher from Clueless or the Backstreet Boys. Award prizes for the best ones! This is a dance kids AND parents will enjoy getting ready for.

Get snacks ready for your hungry dancers with a sign up. SAMPLE

Classic, Year-Round Themes

If you just want something simple and classic — with a modern spin — try these timeless, year-round ideas. 

  1. School Pride - Decorate all out in your school colors to get some school pride going, especially if your dance is after or before a big game! You can have the cheerleaders lead chants and show off your spirit. Play the school fight song and ask trivia about your school for a chance at door prizes.
  2. I Sea, You Sea - An oceanic theme is easy and exciting! Hang blue gauze everywhere and blow up balloons to look like large pieces of coral. For snacks, you can serve blue punch, goldfish or Swedish fish. Play ocean-themed games where students can win a pet goldfish to take home (make sure to clear it with parents first).
  3. Sky Full of Stars - To simulate a starry night, cover your venue in black or navy and hang twinkle lights! Then, hang gold stars from the ceiling over the dance floor and add a disco ball for even more of a dreamy effect.
  4. A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away - Many years later, Star Wars is still all the rage. Students can choose to dress up as their favorite Star Wars characters and enjoy a star-studded night filled with out-of-this-world contests, snacks and dancing. You could even have clips from the movies playing in the background or a movie viewing area for more reserved dance-goers. Serve popcorn or dip pretzel sticks into colorful icing to mimic the look of a lightsaber. Genius Tip: To avoid injuries, ban toy lightsabers from this event.
  5. Great Books - Transform your school into a literary wonderland with scenes from works like The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings and classic fairytales like Cinderella. Different corners of the room can represent different authors. Decorate with pages, stacks of antique-looking books and themed décor from the books you choose!
Whether you’re planning a fall formal, winter ball or spring dance, these ideas are sure to spice up the planning and ensure you have a dance that middle schoolers will love. Just remember to organize well ahead of time, communicate rules with parents and recruit more than enough helpers to keep the dance running smoothly. 

Kayla Rutledge is a college student who spends most of her time writing, singing for her church and eating quesadillas.