Freak-out at Welcome Back Dance


Deepa Kollipara

Administration enforces controversial ‘face-to-face with a little bit of space’ policy at the first dance.

Like at every first dance, seniors sporting their homemade senior shirts were ready to uphold the tradition of dancing with freshmen who stood nervously at the sidelines. However, instead of blaring speakers and flashing lights, students ran into "happy" music and flood lights.

This year the Welcome Back dance came with what many students saw as unexpected changes, with an undeniable and overwhelming student reaction.

"The admin treated us like little kids. For a school that prides itself on [making us] young, [forward-looking] adults, the way we were treated last Friday left me feeling really disappointed and a little insulted," senior Rebecca Yin said on the 2010 School Loop discussion.

Though not all students were exasperated.

"I think [freaking] is vulgar," freshman Sherri Roohi said.

Last week’s dance policy, however abrupt it might have seemed, is not anything new.  After the "freaking" or "grinding" trend garnered national media attention in the San Jose Mercury News and the Los Angeles Times, many local schools began to take action against the provocative style of dancing. In 2003, Palo Alto High School prohibited dancing that appeared "overly suggestive." Last year, Saratoga High School created a student task force to discuss the issue and flood lights became the norm at Gunn High School. But the issue truly hit MVHS when Bellarmine College Preparatory sent a letter to administration following the actions of MVHS students at their mixers, stating that they do not condone the behavior.

At that point, the administration decided to take action; according to Dean of Students Denae Moore, it aimed to establish a positive school culture where all students feel welcome.

"Dances are supposed to be social experiences for young people," Moore said, "When it’s just communicating with someone’s back, it’s not a social experience. It’s purely a physical experience."

Moore expressed that the school is held liable for students’ safety at a school activity, and administration would be "kind of promoting [freaking] by not saying or doing anything about it."

In the end, administration felt that their move to curb inappropriate dancing went in the right direction.

"In my opinion, Friday night went really well.  We definitely got our message across to [the] student body that we have some interests in changing the culture of our dances," Moore said.

In the opinion of many students, however, Friday night was far from a success. Mere hours after the dance, a 2010 School Loop discussion initiated by senior Alex Dor was teeming with comments, suggestions, criticism, and even a little praise for the dance. The discussion on School Loop resulted in over 50 posts.

One tradition that some students feel administration took offense to was the inappropriate moniker, the "Freshman Rape Dance", for the Welcome Back Dance. Though students recognized it as a joke, many understood the precarious situation it created.

"Administration doesn’t have the leniency to say ‘haha, we understand you’re not actually raping them’. I understand where the [administration] is coming from. We have to stop calling it that. It comes with this whole negative connotation," Dor said.

The music and lights were also hot topics among students. During the first half of the dance , the DJ was requested to play "happy" and appropriate music that made it difficult for some students to "freak dance." The DJ was also located in a different area of the Rally Court and cordoned off with caution tape to let the DJ regulate student requests in a safe manner.  Administration also placed lights around the periphery of the Rally Court, stating that it was a safety concern. Students felt differently, saying that the lights themselves were the hazards.

"It’s ironic. You want the floodlights to keep people from tripping, but really [the lights] are the problem. People don’t want to dance in the sunlight — people don’t go to the Rally Court [during the day] and start freaking," Dor said. "That’s why dances start at eight p.m. So everyone concentrates to the middle, and people are getting kicked. Everyone is trying to get away from the lights."

Many students also argued that the changes the administration made might only hurt the school. Some students are calling for a complete boycott. While many students happy with the changes would still go, there’s a possibility that dance attendance numbers may drop for the upcoming Homecoming dance. When the new policy was implemented at Palo Alto High School, only 200 tickets were sold at dances compared to the normal sales of 600 tickets.

"After this one, everyone was talking about how disappointing it was, because they pay money. If a lot of people start to not go, then the school could lose a lot of the money they make off dances," junior Sarah Hsu said.

After the debate ensued on campus and the internet, ASB Leadership established a dance council with two leadership student representatives from each grade to discuss the issue. While the dance has become controversial with many sides, many people want to collaborate and compromise. The committee hopes to come up with a possible solution for Homecoming and future dances.

"It’s clear that we needed to have a conversation with the student body and get feedback instead of just enforcing our stance," Moore said.

"The administration isn’t as cold-hearted as we perceive it to be. They’re not out to get us. If there are going to be changes bring them one at a time so we can see if we like it," Dor said.

Some are doubting if there will be any change even with the Dance Committee.

"To be honest, freaking is something that’s not going to stop.  If anything, [the administration] is trying to encourage it," junior Tomer Assaf said.

In spite of the controversy, some students found humor in the situation.

"I honestly thank the DJ, because I never thought that in my lifetime I would have the opportunity to grind to ‘Dancing Queen’," senior Alan Do said.