Do Paly’s stigmatized dances have a future? YES

One false, but very popular misconception is that Palo Alto High School dances “suck.” The most commonly heard complaint goes along the lines of “dances are just really bad, so no one goes.”

However we should begin to realize that what actually sucks is the student body’s attitude toward dances — not really the dances themselves.

It is not the dances that are poor quality. The DJs that are hired work for upscale entertainment companies. They may not be the best, but they are top-notch as far as high school dance DJs go. These DJs bring with them sophisticated lighting systems. The decorations are freshly purchased, plentiful and match the themes of the dances.

Paly’s Assocated Student Body (ASB) provides additional activity choices such as a television and Wii games for non-dancers. Candy, bottled water and chips are generously available to dance-goers at no cost.

Most dances have around a five dollar entrance fee. Some are even free, like last year’s homecoming and this year’s back-to-school Hawaiian themed dance — something virtually unheard of at other schools.

Overall, the music, equipment, decorations, activities and cost of Paly dances are in no way worse than other schools.

Something many fail to realize is that dance rules are reasonable, if not lenient. They are certainly not as ridiculously strict as some students attempt to make them out to be. There is a very loose dress code and minimal to zero restrictions on how students may or may not dance. I have never seen a Paly chaperone insert themselves between the bodies of two dancing teenagers, or tell a student her shirt is too small or demonstrate any sort of annoyingly intrusive behavior during a dance.

Overall, the rules are no different from those of nearby schools. Some also blame low dance attendance on breathalyzers.

“A huge amount of the student population drinks,” an anonymous junior said. “By breathalyzing at dances, it keeps these kids away. Also, why does the school care [about student drinking]?”

There are many aspects of this statement that are false, irrelevant and easy to respond to.

First, “why does the school care”? The school cares because it is an educational institution that needs to look out for the safety of its students. Breathalyzing is a standard pre-dance procedure that many other schools administer as well. School dance rules are not, and should not, be compared to those of a house party. We should not expect our school to “loosen up” in this aspect, and take on possible legal responsibilities for teenage alcohol consumption. It would be unreasonable to expect Paly administration to condone illegal activity and welcome the arrival of stumbling intoxicated minors to a school event. Additionally, very unfortunate and severe situations could occur — vomiting, passing out and possible death.

Next, the concept that a “huge” amount of the student population drinks is false. According to the California Healthy Kids Survey taken by Paly students last year in 2012, less than five percent of the freshman class and less than 25 percent of upperclassmen drink regularly or excessively — regularly or excessively meaning anywhere from three to 20 times in a month.

Even if this were to be true in an alternate world, it would be a weak argument against breathalyzing.

There are countless weekends in a school year for students to misbehave as they so desire, off campus.

The concept of spending two or three hours dancing sober with your best friends at your high school, on one Friday of the year really should not be considered so horrendously impossible.

Over at Henry M. Gunn High School, senior Stephanie Do provides an inside observation on the effects of breathalyzing at their dances.

“Every single dance is breathalyzed,” Do said.  “But it has never seemed to be a problem for me or my peers.”

Do explains that school spirit ultimately trumps the no-alcohol policy at dances amongst Gunn students.

“Dances have always been something that the student body has been excited about,” Do said. “[Being breathalyzed] doesn’t really matter. Dances are still fun because everyone is there.”

Gunn students’ perspectives on dances should be emphasized and praised. When referencing the same California Healthy Kids Survey taken at Gunn, results show that around five percent of underclassmen and 10 percent of upperclassmen engaged in regular or excessive drinking habits. In terms of teen drinking culture,

Gunn’s is not too different from our own.

Nonetheless, a huge mass of students make time in their lives to attend dances — regardless of their typical weekend night activities, which may or may not involve alcohol.

Something that should motivate Paly students to work together in improving dance attendance is the fact that many students actually truly want to experience a great school dance.

Senior Omri Newman references Gunn’s homecoming as an example of an important high school dance, and cites his desire for better school dances.

“I do wish Paly dances were more successful,” Omri Newman said. “Not only would it be a way for Paly kids to come together and be a part of something engaging and fun, but it would also create new traditions and be a big part of our lives just as homecoming is for Gunn.”

Paly students look to Gunn and other schools and wonder why dances on their own campus are not the same.

But they don’t think further than that. Students point fingers at those who they feel are most easy to blame — ASB, the administration and DJs.
Students settle with the conclusion that Paly dances are just “bad”, failing to realize that the effort Gunn and other high schools puts into dances does not so greatly surpass our own efforts.

The most influential difference is simply that Gunn students are more enthusiastic about the concept of school dances and are thus willing to attend the social get-togethers and other events.

If Paly students would give their school dances a chance, and get over their “too cool” persona, attend the events in mass numbers and stay the evening, the success of our dances would explode.

To students who claim to be incapable of having fun at dances due to the “awkward” atmosphere or being sober, junior Kabria Dame offers a piece of advice.

Dame attended the back-to-school Hawaiian themed dance on the second Friday of the 2013-2014 school year. She noted that “everyone was vibing to the music.”

When the Paly student body realize they have complete control over the success, attendance and overall enjoyability of Paly dances, these events will begin to improve exponentially.

In addition to an enjoyable time,  dances could grant students yet another platform to establish special traditions that would last and be remembered for years to come.

Given our enthusiastic school spirit, non-intrusive chaperones, and substantial funds for DJs, decorations and free food, our high school has immense potential to throw some of the most memorable dances out there. Dances that could easily top those of our crosstown rival.

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