High School Halls: Under the Disco Ball: School Dances

Turn down the lights and let the disco ball turn. It’s time for a school-sponsored dance on Deep-Fried Friday as part of my High School Halls series.

First, let’s all pause and wish that our high school dance had been like this:

I don’t remember dancing like that at any of ours.

That Was Then

My school had two major dances: Winter Ball and Junior/Senior Prom. If memory serves, I went to all of them. The Winter Ball was a semi-formal affair held at the campus. Guys wore suits or slacks and ties, while girls wore nice dresses–the kind of thing you might wear to a play or even church.

Prom was available only to juniors and seniors and their dates. It was held off site at a hotel ballroom, usually in downtown Corpus Christi near the bay. Guys wore tuxes, and girls wore formals.

The nights were themed, although the only one I remember is my senior prom which was simply called Caribbean Nights. (I loved the homecoming theme in Tiffany A. White’s Football Sweetheart. No, I’m not revealing it; you must read for yourself!)

At both dances, we had a DJ. The music was mostly contemporary, with some classics thrown in. We danced as couples, groups, and in line dances. I’m pretty sure The Cotton-Eyed Joe featured at every school dance, but as I’ve talked about before, that may be just a Texas phenomenon. I also vividly recall dancing the Schottische at my senior prom.

Here are a few pics of my dance days. Since I didn’t ask permission, I chose not to reveal my dates.

Sophomore Winter Ball
Sophomore Prom (with a Junior)
Junior Prom

Not exactly the cocktail dress from Pretty Woman, you know? Or even Molly Ringwald’s homemade dress design from Pretty in Pink. But they were reasonably fashionable for the 1980s.

This Is Now

Dances still abound. There are Homecoming dances, winter balls, spring formals, and graduation dances. I suppose teens will always want to dress up and strut their stuff onto a dance floor. They will always gyrate and shimmy under the disco ball and then fold themselves into a deep embrace for a slow song.

The general notion is the same, whether in the 1950s, the 1980s, or today. However, the appearance has changed.

Gone is the church dress look. Now it’s cocktail dresses and long formals all the way. It seems like the party dress section never leaves the department store these days. There’s always a dance in season for which teen girls are purchasing attire.

While I suspect the cost of my dress and everything else for me to attend any dance was easily less than $100, nowadays you can fork over an arm, a leg, and a kidney to attend a prom in style. Visa conducted a national survey this past spring, in which families said they would spend $696 to $1,944 on their kids’ prom costs (MSN Money). Way back in 2002, ABC News reported prom dresses, accessories, flowers, beauty products, and other prom-related expenses made for a $2.75 billion market. Indeed, some couples spend as much for prom as other couples spend on their wedding.

Prom Movie (2011)

(If you’re a teen reading this, I suggest that you won’t remember your flowers or the hairdo ten years from now nearly so much as the dancing and the friends. Save your money and go to Europe one summer instead.)

If students don’t have enough money for a proper dress or tux, they can check out local Prom Angel or Prom Princess offerings. Some school or charities now host shopping events for gently used formals.

Dances are still themed. Looking at 2012 prom themes, I found Parisian Nights, Puttin’ on the Ritz, Unmask the Night, Grecian Garden, Feelin’ Jazzy, Under the Sea, Bright Lights Big City, The Lion King, Masquerade, and even the literary-inspired Emerald City and Hogwarts Castle. Of course, not all literary themes are appropriate: No one wants to attend The Hunger Games prom. Themes all seem to come with the requisite streamers, balloons, confetti, and photo backdrops that give the night a special sparkle.

Bite Night Prom, anyone?

As for the music, I’m betting the Cotton-Eyed Joe has given way to the Cha Cha Slide and Gangnam Style. Fast dances will still mix with slow dances, and both couples and groups will find their way onto the dance floor.

Yes, you will remember these dances. Perhaps for the fun you had with friends or the fact that you waited all night long and that stupid jerk never remembered that he promised you a dance or the way that you felt like a king or queen as you danced the night away. When the lights go up and the disco ball stops turning, you will have your memories. Whether they are good or bad…is mostly up to you.

So what do you think? How was your prom? What do you like/dislike about school dances? Do you have any fond memories?

NOTE: I’m aware that many teens choose to drink alcohol on these evenings. If you drink, PLEASE do not drive. You do not want to remember this evening for the wrong reasons. For more information, see Natalie Hartford’s blog post about the I Promise campaign.