Dance Culture

Group Of Teenage Friends Dressed For PromFor the eighth-graders at Norup International School, the end-of-middle-school dance on June 15th is going to be a new experience. That’s because the school has not had dances until now, and some parents are worried that their kids won’t want to go.

The kids have surprised the nay-sayers, though. They’re eagerly buying dresses and planning whom to dance with. They can’t wait. Because it’s a new experience that they are eager to have.

So many of us remember going to dances in middle school and high school as a normal part of our school culture. But something has changed over the decades and now it’s not necessarily the norm, at least in metro Detroit, for kids to experience dance before high school, if at all.Prom

In fact, in this podcast by This American Life, middle-schoolers explain the awkwardness of school dances and the thinking behind them.

Which makes us wonder, has American culture shifted dramatically away from the concept of dances as social rites of passage?

Is it scare-mongering because we’re afraid kids will get too intimate?

Last year, we had two or three high school dance students in our studio. For a while, we worked with the International Academy in a regular program where we taught kids in their high school how to dance.

graduation ballAnd, in Birmingham a few years back, we worked with a middle school but gave up that program because the kids were not really respectful, not really paying attention.

I wonder, what have we lost by not having a school dance culture?

I always tell the high school students who come to our studio, the boys in particular, that girls don’t mind dancing. So, if guys want to be comfortable when they go off to college, they should learn how to dance, because everybody in college is going to bars and going dancing. You have to find a way to be comfortable.

Dance lessons during high school is an easy way to build confidence with the opposite sex.

When we first opened, we had one individual whose family was from Poland. A young man, though he grew up here, came for dance lessons at his mother’s urging because he was so socially awkward. His mother wanted him to start feeling more comfortable.

Prom Couple Close-upHe began dance lessons as a freshman in high school. He came once a week, participated in our parties, and within a year, he was so comfortable, he was asking all the ladies to dance. In fact, he served as an extra partner at our events.

It’s a great thing for young men to learn how to dance when in high school. It literally sets the stage for a lifetime of confidence around the opposite sex.

If we lose this at the school level, we are losing a lot – dance is a healthy social outlet thath is safe and managed. What replaces it if the dances disappear?

HiResYears ago, your parents, my parents, we all danced. It was just accepted.

During the 1960s, with the counter-culture frenzy and people started to be their own free spirit, they didn’t dance together. They might have danced, but they lost the connection of how to dance, how to work together in a partnership.

It’s only in the last 10 years that it’s starting to come back together.

What is the skill set that they never got? In middle school, we did square dances in the gym. We all hated it, but we did it.

There was a whole generation of Baby Boomers who didn’t learn to social dance. Perhaps because of the stigma that guys who danced must be gay.

Believe it or not, when I was a big jock in high school, I wouldn’t tell anybody that I was dancing. I used dance to help my athletic skills, and I liked it, but I didn’t tell anybody.

We have to stop this fear of the dance and embrace it as a socially acceptable way to step into confidence and meet the opposite sex head-on.