Dance Fever

Some arrived in limos, some arrived in decked out Cadillac Escalades, and some their mothers’ mini-vans. But they all arrived with one objective: to boogie on down. This was the night that “everybody gonna jump, jump,” cause this was “Thriller.”

Last week was homecoming for South Whidbey High School, which brought the first formal dance of the year to the school. The same weekend, Langley Middle School — not to be outdone in terms of fun — also held its first dance of the year.

At the high school Saturday night, the mat room, still filled with the stench of sweaty athletes, was converted into the photo studio for the evening. Dressed up students posed on tiny white wooden bridges decorated with silk roses that spanned aluminum foil reflecting rivers. Next door, the school’s small gymnasium was rimmed with tiny white lights, and an area was set up cafe style with chairs and tables. The dance floor was wide open and ready to be taken.

The only light in the darkened gym was the wild flashing lights provided by the DJ, who spun out the hottest radio hits and a few favorites from decades past. The dance floor was filled and the gym was vibrating from a booming bass and feet hitting the floor.

This dance, and the spring’s prom dance, are the high points of years of school dances for high school upperclassmen. But before there can be a homecoming dance, every adolescent must make his or her way through the ranks of school dances.

On Friday afternoon, the Langley Middle School gymnasium was silent except for scampering footsteps and a few subdued voices as last-minute decorations were assembled. The day was still young and that afternoon’s dance far away. Plus, the doors were still locked.

When 2:30 p.m. arrived, a line of students was winding out the front sidewalk. It was the first dance of the year — the first big social event of the year, the first chance to see and be seen, and the first chance for some to make that first big impression that could last through their middle school and high school years.

When the doors first opened, middle schoolers were everywhere. Some ran to the dance floor. Some ran for food. Some ran to check out the educational booths. That’s right, educational booths. The dance was a fundraiser for the seventh-grade Adventure Education’s Youth in Philathropy project, and proceeds will be given out in the form of grants to environmentally sound organizations later this year.

But most of the kids at the dance just ran from group to group, saying “hi,” whispering, giggling, attempting to look bored as if they didn’t care.

“Dude, where’s your girlfriend,” asked one blonde-haired, baseball hat-wearing boy.

Seventh-grader Kaylee Deisher of Langley likes to dance, but likes it more that she can just “hang out” at school dances.

“It’s just fun to people watch at the dances since there’s so many people here in one place,” she said.

The guys head banged to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” did their best air guitar to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and everyone rock snarled to Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”

Off to one side of the dance floor were the most active of the dancers, the chaperones. As it was for the kids, the dance was a chance for the adults to let down their guard, kick up their heels and shimmy their shoulders, all while keeping a watchful eye.

Then the big test came — the first slow song. The music hit and everyone on the dance floor moaned, screamed or gave some other verbal remark of woe. Students scattered like sand before the wind, as if anyone nearby had the plague. In the end, some students paired up. Most just took the hand of a good friend, some goofed around, but most swayed seriously content to the music in the background.

Peggy Larmore watched her third child, a seventh-grade Adventure Education student, head off to the dance at LMS Friday.

“Watching them work together to get everything accomplished for the dance, I can see everything that goes into it,” Larmore said of the class’s project to organize the dance. “It’s a place where the kids can relax, have fun and still be in a supervised environment.”

A bench full of eighth-grade girls offered this dance survival advice: 1) Don’t be afraid to ask someone to dance, 2) Bring money for food and 3) Don’t go alone, bring friends.

The best dance according to the girls? The eighth-grade graduation dance, because “the food is free and you get to dress up.” And it only gets bigger from there. Dances go from afternoon to evening, and evolve from an hour-and-a-half for middle schoolers to close to four hours in high school.

And that “dressing up” for eighth-grade graduation, it’s only going to get fancier from there, girls. At Homecoming Saturday night, there was glamour, fun and creativity. Students became walking retro 1940s pin ups, 50s modern glamour girls and even 80s punk princesses complete with fishnets. Guys efforts to look the part went from simply making sure to comb their hair to double-breasted suits and even one all white number complete with snow white sneakers and a flipped up hat.

But no matter what the dance, the attire, and the age of people on the dance floor — there’s certain truths.

There’s congregating in the bathrooms, to talk about everything from how they look to how other people look and whether or not they’re having fun.

Throw a certain famous Sir Mix-A-Lot song on the turntable and the dance floor is filled.

“Macarena,” is a sure-fire way of getting everyone to move as one on the dance floor.

Your principle will separate you if you and your boyfriend’s hips are a little too close.

And only middle school girls can look at each other for a split second, clasp hands and for no apparent reason emit a ecstatic screech so high only dogs can hear it. Must have been the boys who walked by.

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