Last weekend, Andover students attended the opening dance of the year. For the first time in students memory, however, the event was separated by grade. The “Red, White and You” dance was held in two different locations: Juniors went to the Underwood Room, while the rest of the school went to Borden Gym. The decision to separate the Juniors was made by Christopher Capano, Director of Student Activities, in consultation with the Student Activities Board (SAB).
In retrospect, I think the Juniors’ USA Dance turned out to be exactly what everyone expected it to be: not too great, yet nothing to complain about. It was similar to the middle school dances many students are familiar with – masses of students dancing in a dimly lit room. What it was not, however, was an opportunity to make friends with other freshmen.
The thought behind the decision to split the dances was to help Juniors get to know the other students in their grade, according to Mr. Capano. He said earlier last week, “We thought we could have a dance where the ninth graders could meet each other and get to know each other as their ninth grade classmates.” This is a reasonable idea in theory, but in reality it fell short of expectation.
Before I left my dorm on the night of the dance, my prefects gathered all the kids in America House and told us the dorm maxim that their own prefects had passed down to them, supposedly created by George W. Bush: America House guys get the girls, and if we don’t, we act like we do. With this maxim in mind, I set out to the dance. Despite the varying advice I had received from both the administration and my own prefects, I still had no clue what to do. Whether the dance was an opportunity to simply get to know other students, or something quite different, was unclear.
With mixed feelings, I cautiously entered my first dance at Andover with a group of my friends. The extremely hot and sweaty, barely-USA-themed atmosphere in a room filled with unfamiliar faces did little to calm my nerves. I could feel the whole place vibrating from the bass of the speakers and people jumping up and down. Here and there, I saw kids crowding into compact circles of friends, with everyone moving and dancing to the beat of the song. The so-called “hook-up culture” still pervaded the dance. Towards the front of the room near the large speakers, a space had been allocated by my classmates for grinding. About an hour in, people were already leaving the dance to go to more private places.
After Mr. Capano’s announcement that separate dances would be held, there had been quite a bit of hype about what the dance was going to be like. Many of the upperclassmen I knew told me not to expect too much and a lot of my fellow Juniors were complaining about the split. Regardless of whether the dance would be entertaining, the whole school knew there would be hooking up, and this proved true.
The separation of students by grade by no means eliminated a sense of the “hook-up culture,” and I understand that this wasn’t the main goal of separating the dances. However, just as I imagine the upperclassmen dance was, our Junior dance was by no means a great environment for the ninth graders to “meet each other and get to know each other.” The bottom line is, a dance in a dark room with hundreds of teenagers will never promote this friendly, meet-and-greet atmosphere the SAB seemed to be going for. For what it was, the USA Dance was perfectly satisfactory, but the school should not kid themselves into thinking it promoted Junior-class friendship or bonding.