On a late Friday night, the muffled, upbeat sound of popular party music can be heard from the AHS parking lot. Inside, the dark cafeteria is cleared of tables and chairs, turning the dull, cream-colored tiles into a temporary dance floor. Students move to a pounding bass drum, the speakers near the DJ table turned up so loud that the dancers can feel the music pulsing in their cores. Smiles and laughter are shared while the smell of perfume, cologne, and a tinge of sweat hangs heavy in the air, the over-powering fragrance cocktail present at every high school dance in America.
Such would have been the case on March 28, but instead the cafeteria remained empty and silent. The ’80s Dance was cancelled the Wednesday before it was set to happen, with only 70 of the 100 necessary tickets sold, according to an announcement made by Dr. Lord. This reflected a new common theme to AHS: that school dances are “out” as opposed to “in.” A harder thing to realize, though, is exactly why the social events are losing popularity, and even harder still to know is just what it means to plan a dance.
“The class boards are responsible for planning AHS dances,” explained Paige Hartnett, member of Junior Board. “We pick a theme and advertise with posters…and social media.” She continued on, creating an extensive list of necessary steps to planning a dance: picking a date, finding a DJ, and “get[ting] the administration on board” to name a few.
“I think a lot of people think that the rules are too strict so it won’t be fun.”
–Ally Morganstern, sophomore
Mr. Abbot, advisor to the Freshman Board, stated that the majority of the “managerial things,” like getting a DJ, security, and custodians, are typically done by the faculty; while many of the ideas for the dances come from students themselves. “I know the Freshman Board…[discusses] what they would like, or what they wouldn’t like. We relay that ultimate message in our advisor meetings and to administration. Some things we can do, while other things we can’t because of certain guidelines we have to follow.”
For something that only lasts around three or four hours, the amount of thought that goes into a dance is massive; according to Abbott, the planning for a dance usually starts a month or two before it’s set to happen, especially if it’s a themed dance. Such was the case with the ’80s dance. “[It] was tougher than usual,” Hartnett stated. “Recently, our school dances haven’t been successful and have been cancelled due to low ticket sales.”
These cancellations also have a negative financial effect. Not only does AHS miss out on the profits from the dance, which is evenly split up across every grade, money can also be lost according to Abbott. DJ and catering businesses are services, and have to be physically booked for the school’s use. Because they could have been somewhere else for the night, a fee for cancellation is common.
The most pressing question regarding dances, though, is why they’re not happening. Some of the student population seems to not even know the answer themselves. A large portion of people asked this very question responded with an apologetic smile, a shrug, or a quizzical expression paired with a noncommittal “I don’t know,” each often accompanied by some slightly bemused giggles. Only a select few tried to convey their thoughts in greater detail.
“I think a lot of people think that the rules are too strict so it won’t be fun,” said Ally Morganstern, sophomore. “I went to one dance, the Holly Ball, at the beginning of this year. I thought it was fun. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. They could’ve played better music, but that’s just my taste,” she finished with a laugh, only half-joking.
Maddison Tassinari, junior, is a good example of Morganstern’s theory. “I haven’t been to [a dance] since they banned grinding…[which was] around my freshman year, I think. That was the last dance I went to. I’m not really sure [why people aren’t going to dances]. People have other plans, I guess.”
The student handbook, though it doesn’t specifically mention grinding, bans the touching of “parts of the body [that would be] covered by a bathing suit.” However, teacher chaperones are given the right to decide what is appropriate and inappropriate at dances, and can adjust students’ behaviors as necessary.
Abbott agreed with Morganstern’s idea. “I don’t think as many students are fond of all the rules and guidelines in place,” he said. “This may be a combination of selling ‘x’ amount of tickets in advance, the process of getting into the dance, as well as the perception of being closely monitored when students are actually in the dance.”
Of course, dances are also a personal preference. There will always be people who are not fans, just as there are always people who dislike certain classes, sports, or genres of music. “I’ve never been to any dances at AHS, and only one in middle school,” stated Gabe Levine, freshman. “I didn’t really enjoy it. I don’t really want to go to dances because I’m not really into things like that. I’d rather be at home doing other things.”
Though it seems like the odds are stacked against those trying to win over the student body on the idea of dances, the battle is far from over. “It has been hard trying to change dances to try and interest more of the student body, but the Junior Board has not given up,” said Hartnett. “We are currently brainstorming new ideas for upcoming dances and are open to any and all suggestions from the student body.”
By Rachel McIntosh