MVHS holds casual Winter Welcome Back Dance

How Leadership switched from a Winter Formal to the casual Winter Dance

Ayah Ali-Ahmad

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As a substitute for the formal winter dances seen at other FUHSD schools, Leadership organized a more casual event on Jan. 31, the Winter Welcome Back Dance, running from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Student Union. Leadership provided an arcade center, DJ booth, coat check-in and two food trucks. 

Senior Rachel Millar, Inter-District Council Representative and member of the Executive Council, says the dance was experimental. Seeing over 700 students attend the Welcome Back Dance last semester inspired Leadership to host another dance as students returned from winter break — hence the name of the dance. 

“Welcome Back Dance at the beginning of the year is by far our most popular event overall, not just dance, and so we wanted to try and theme it very similarly to that,” Millar said. “[We kept this] dance casual, with the same kind of atmosphere in order to make people feel more comfortable. A lot of times, when it’s a formal or semi-formal dress-up dance, there’s a lot of fun with that, but a lot of people kind of feel pressured … So the stigma is kind of gone with just a casual dance.”

The environment of the Winter Dance was similar to that of the Welcome Back Dance: both were kept casual with no dress code and spaces like the arcade center were intentionally made to attract all kinds of students, especially those who wouldn’t necessarily come to a dance more reason to. In this way, the dance is about not just the DJ booth but also hanging out with friends outside of school hours. 

 “[Formal dances] are way less popular than the Welcome Back Dance, and especially [the] underclassmen feel more comfortable just going to a dance like this, and frankly, so do I,” Millar said. “If we are like a traditional high school dance — like dancing and selling soda — that’s not going to work, but [if we have] air hockey, and board games, and food trucks and places for people to just sit and people watch, then that’ll work better for our school than [for] a different school.”

Sophomore Sahana Anand, who has attended every dance this year and last year, explains that her favorites are usually formal themed. She says although the dance was casual, she put thought into her outfit and had her friends do her makeup, which she finds appealing for both kinds of dances.

“I feel like for formal [dances], it’s very uniform,” Anand said. “You have to put that much thought into what you wear … [and I am not] able to dance around and have that much fun because I know my long dress is very hard to dance in. But this one, I like that it’s casual, but I also think that there’s no dress code, so it’s harder to find out what to wear.” 

Millar says though the responsibility of running the dance is on all of Leadership, she and the seven other seniors on the Executive Council are largely responsible for organizing and planning it. The Executive Council helps faci

litate discussions about the dance and what they think the student body would like to see.

“[Executive Council] is a lot about organization [and] making sure that we work as a cohesive force,” Millar said. “Are we going to sell food? Do we want to try and get food trucks? Are we going to bring in games? Where is it going to be? A lot of the organization was through [Executive Council], but then every part of the dance, like the decoration planning and thinking of themes, is done by the whole class.”

Another main difference between the two dances was attendance. Millar says that by Thursday this week, Leadership sold 120 presale tickets, and by Friday, they sold over 200. In comparison, the Welcome Back Dance had an attendance of over 700 students. Millar accounts for this decrease to the fact that the dance was newly added.

“We were very nervous because … we knew obviously we wouldn’t get the same attendance as [the] Welcome Back [Dance],” Millar said. “It kind of feels like the school is in kind of a weird slump right now. It’s just because people aren’t used to having this kind of dance at this time of the year … We always hope that at least 100, or a couple hundred more show up [at the door].”

Anand agrees that the dance wasn’t anticipated for like Homecoming is because it is new and unknown on campus. But regardless of the low attendance and late announcement, Anand feels Leadership did an excellent job at promoting the event. 

“I feel like the location change is a little bit last minute, but I feel like they did do a good job of promo, and at presale, they had everyone put [it] out [on] their Instagram,” Anand said. “I feel like the Welcome Back Dance is the first dance of the year, so people care a lot. And then it’s Homecoming, that’s really important. But this dance was thrown in there a little bit, and it doesn’t show as much importance, and I feel like they just nearly added this event.”

The week before, Leadership utilized social media, morning announcements, dress-up days, whiteboards in classrooms and posters in the rally court to promote the dance. Millar says that while they tried using a variety of ways to promote, there is still room for improvement.

“We have a lot of trouble promoting things [and] trying to find new ways to promote because we are fully aware that once you see 10 flyers on people’s Snapchat stories, you’re just flipping by them and not reading them,” Millar said. “That’s why on Thursday, [Leadership] was wearing ski goggles and ski stuff because people go, ‘Why are you wearing that?’ and then we say ‘I’m so glad you asked. You should come to the Winter Welcome Back.”‘ 

Millar says her other responsibility as an Executive Council member is working with her team to make a Do Not Play and Play playlist for the DJs who come from SOS Entertainment every dance. 

“We’re trying to adjust the music taste, so it’s enough where everybody can enjoy it,” Millar said. “What are people going to enjoy at a dance for the right atmosphere? You’re trying to reach the widest audience, and so we hash it out … And so we kind of fight it out and figure out, and hope all of us come to a consensus. I want to hear it like Bohemian Rhapsody.”

The DJ for the night was Daniel Leon, a part-time DJ and full-time freelance audiovisual production technician, who has done gigs like these for 10 years. Millar says SOS Entertainment has a 10-year contract with MVHS, so they have always insured a DJ for events. Leon enjoys DJing and follows the list of songs provided but also adjusts the music for requests and how the crowd reacts to certain music. 

“For [high school gigs], they usually ask for us to play clean music, and then they’ll go ahead and give us a list from the school of songs that students want to hear throughout the night that are must plays or interactive songs,” Leon said. “My job is to make sure that you guys have fun and have a good time, and just make the best of it and enjoy. Enjoy that you’re young right now and you can do this because when you have to work, you might not be able to do this very often.”

By 10 p.m., Leadership cleaned up and the food trucks and DJ left. Millar says that ultimately, dances are essential to have even when they do not gain a lot of attendance and that they’ll continue to run more casual events in the future. 

“It’s all a part of the high school experience,” Millar said. “We’re upset because we didn’t get the attendance we wanted, but having an awkward high school dance is all a part of it. So we’re trying to help everybody have their own high school experience … And [we are] always finding a way for the school to cohesively get together and have fun.”