Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Solution to Dirty Dancing at School Dances

We had an article in our local newspaper the other day reporting that local school officials were at wit's end at how to deal with 'dirty' dancing at school dances.

According to a report in the Skagit Valley Herald:

One Mount Vernon High School dance chaperone says the current dance craze, called “grinding,” looks to her as if students are having “sex with their clothes on,” and she’s tired of looking the other way.
“Every kid was either dancing like that or not at all,” said Carolyn Nichols, 49. “The kids who weren’t brave enough to dance like that were standing in circles talking.”

The article goes on to say that most county schools have forbidden suggestive dancing and have also threatened to stop having dances if it continues to be a problem. The article indicates that the problem is widespread in the country.

As the title of my blog indicates, I have a solution: teach the kids something different. Give them an alternative.

Since the 1960's--just after I got out of my teens--our culture has ceased to pass down our dances as part of our lore. Knowing the basic dances helped us out socially during the difficult teen years by giving us a way of interacting where we knew the ropes.

As a Native New Mexican, I not only learned the waltz, foxtrot and swing, but also the specialty dances like Cotton Eyed Joe, Put Your Little Foot and the Schottish. I was taught the dances by my parents and grandparents.

What's wrong with teaching recreational dance in P.E.? I think it's more important than pickleball.

I had this revelation this last weekend when I attended a Traditional Jazz Festival at Oceanside Oregon. Most of the people who attend these festivals have gray hair, like me. We grew up on this music, and we love to dance to it.

However, over the last few years, I've noticed more and more young people coming to dance. We call them the Lindy Hoppers, because they come to practice the Lindy Hop. There's a group from Seattle and one from Vancouver BC that come to the northwest jazz festivals. They begin dancing at ten a.m. on Saturday morning, and they're still going strong when the last band has played, thirteen hours later. Four year ago there might have been half a dozen Lindy Hoppers at the festival. This year, I judged there to be about a hundred.

The beautiful thing about it was the cross-generational connection. Young and old were sharing the same dance floor, grooving to the same music.

I've posted a couple of videos I shot of the dancing at one of the venues at ten a.m. The Lindy Hoppers follow different bands, and these were dancing to High Sierra at one of the smaller venues. One is slower, the other is up-tempo.

Here's what I've noticed as I've watched these young people dance:

  • There's lots of camaraderie among them. They change partners lots, making sure everyone gets a chance to dance. The more experienced dance with those who haven't yet completely clued in. Over the years I've noticed how several two-left-feeters have miraculously grown an opposing right foot. It's because of the coaching they got from their peers.
  • These kids are tremendously fit. Look at the videos. Each band plays an hour-and-a-quarter set. There are fifteen minutes between sets. The Lindy hoppers dance solid all day long.
  • These dances are not suggestive. There's lots of finesse, lots of inventiveness, to them, lots of athleticism, but sex with clothes on? No.
  • The kids have gone beyond learning just the Lindy Hop. One of the bands played a waltz and the dance floor (this was a very large one at the biggest venue) quickly filled up with senior citizens twirling around the room. But I also noticed about half of the Lindy Hoppers were twirling around, too. It was a beautiful moment.

I know there are those who would say that the kids wouldn't want to have a dance class in P.E. Well, I don't know. What I'm seeing with the Lindy Hoppers seems to be a ground swell, a grass roots thing. I think the kids may be hungry for that kind of knowledge: a truly American dance form danced to truly American music. A dance form that says, this is who I am. This is part of my heritage, part of my American lore.


Follow this blog! I promise to quit philosophizing and post how to cook a healthy fried egg, soon. And I want to talk about swans and SWANs.


Jenni said...

That's a great idea! my husband learned the Charleston in a college dance class and has since taught it to me and all his siblings. It's so much fun!!

Liz Adair said...

Thanks, Jenni, for the comment. I agree it's fun. It's also a great cardio-vascular workout.

Monique said...

Liz that is one of the greatest ideas I've heard in a long time, and I don't even have teenagers! yet that is. I know when I was a teen we danced like that because we didn't know how to dance anyother way. In PE all we learned was square dancing which was horrid in my opinion (sorry to all the square dancers out there). But if they made it a unit where they taught a number of different dances it would have been more fun. It was kinda akward having to dance with boys I mostly tried to avoid though. But I bet if you sold it right the kids would really get into it. You should contact the locals in charge of such things and share your idea!

Lynn Parsons said...

Great idea! I had social dance in high school (California, late 70s), and not only did we have better social skills, but boys learned that asking a girl to dance was not a commitment, just another way to have fun.