Last Chance to Dance?

More and more, students are saying “no” to school dances. What is the future of this high school tradition here at Lenape?

It seems with each new school year, class advisors struggle more and more to sell tickets for school dances. This year at Lenape, sophomore cotillion was around ten tickets away from being cancelled altogether. What has made students no longer want to attend these social events? Many people that go are excited during the days prior and seem to have a good time, but lately they seem to be the minority.

Talking to these students, Kelly Donohue, Class of 2018, told me, “I just feel sorry for everyone who didn’t go [to Cotillion]. We had such a great time but I think it would have been more fun if more people went.”

Aakilah Rashid, also a member of the Class of 2018, thinks “people should go to the school dances because it’s a fun night out with friends and you get to know the people in your grade, who you will be with for the next four years, better and we can become closer as a class. You also want to look back to your high school years as something fun and enjoyable, not boring

Pondering over this during these last few weeks since cotillion on February 26th, I’ve come up with a few viable theories as to what is driving this lack of interest in school dances at Lenape.

  1. Peer pressure

As with most social events in high school, it is not surprising that most people make their decision to RSVP “yes” or “no” based on what everyone else is doing. This usually starts a domino effect of more and more people bailing out on an event and making their own plans until the only people left going are those brave enough to stand on their own. Although peer pressure is to be expected with teenagers, it also shouldn’t have such a huge impact on school dance attendance. If more people decided to go for themselves, they would find that several other people they know are also at a dance, and the north cafeteria probably would have been full for cotillion.

Sophomore Julia Zak, when asked why she didn’t attend cotillion, answered, “There is little participation from our class, and it would have been hard to go knowing the lack of people that would’ve been there.”

2. Formality

Let’s face it: teenagers are insecure. They have been since the beginning of time, and they will be for a long time. The idea of having to get dressed up and enter a room full of other teenagers all subconsciously trying to compete against each other for the title of “best dressed” can be extremely intimidating. Not only does semi-formal attire  feel annoying and uncomfortable for a lot of people, it can also become associated with awkwardness and self-consciousness. When you think about it this way, it isn’t surprising that a lot of people choose to stay home. School dance attendance might improve if the dances became casual, and there wasn’t so much hype and pressure around them as a result. To make matters even more awkward, a lot of kids hate dancing altogether, much less in public. Again, the weight put on school dances as a way of communicating how cool you are to the teenage population is stressful, and it may be understandable why students have decided over the years that it just isn’t worth it.

3. Money

Cotillion was $20, and  the junior dinner dance is probably going to cost even more. A lot of kids, especially given the reasons above, would rather have their parents give them the same amount of money to use to go see a movie or go buy something at the Cherry Hill Mall. It’s quite possible that the cost of the ticket limits how many students attend. This brings up the issue then of school spirit and participation in fundraising, but that discussion is for another day.

Lenape DJ stands alone at almost empty Sophomore Cotillion
Aakilah Rashid
Lenape DJ stands alone at almost empty Sophomore Cotillion

Despite the numerous factors  that drive students not to attend their class dances, I personally believe that staying home is a mistake. No matter what, the dance only happens once, and there is no reason that going out with your friends would end up going terribly wrong. Despite my opinions, however, kids are still not attending school dances, which brings up another question: What happens when no one wants to come? The numbers are dwindling, and the possibility of cancelled dances has grown over the years. Without attendance, Lenape may not even attempt to host school dances, and the opportunity for a fun night out with friends will be lost. Until Lenape can put a finger on what exactly is enticing kids to choose staying home as a better Friday night plan than going to cotillion, Lenape students may be very close to finding out that the dance they skipped this year was the last one they had the option to attend.