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Gradebook

Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Guest blogger: Stop that dirty dancing at the high school dance

9

October

PICT3093.JPGTiffany Alfonso admits it. As a Jefferson High School student, she did her share of grinding on the school dance floor. Now the 2008 grad from Brandon has come to realize that dirty dancing has no place in schools, and she's started a campaign against it that includes her blog Get Your Freak Dancing Off! In lieu of our regular weekend interview, we've given Alfonso the spot to talk about the problems schools and teens face at their high school dances.

"It’s the same scene playing in events that involve dancing, especially school dances. Hip-hop or reggaeton music fills the air, students get on the dance floor, and shake their hips close behind their partners’ backsides.

That dance move in question is called grinding, and it drives school administrators and parents up the wall.

I have to admit that I was one of the high schoolers who did what most of us call “dirty dancing,” or more specifically, “freak dancing.” I started grinding in a church retreat as a junior at Jefferson High School. I didn’t learn to dance lewdly by dance instructional tapes or dance teachers, but from peer pressure. I knew that virtually everyone was doing it, so I asked myself, “Why not join them?” Then, I did it again during homecoming in my senior year. Believe me, I loved to dance at a school function, but I couldn’t resist doing that type of lewd dancing because a lot of my peers do it. That was my final time I grinded, and I realized that the way almost all my peers and I dance was inappropriate.

Even though I already graduated from Jefferson, a lot of teenagers still grind, and that’s problematic. They do this because they learned how to do it from watching music videos (It’s a major source for the oversexualization of our youth.) or their own peers. But the biggest fear is passing it down to those younger than they are, and a few videos on the Internet realized that fear. There’s a video on Break.com which features a couple of kids (all elementary school-age) from a different nation attending a birthday party. The adults put on reggaeton music, and the kids start grinding. One moment of that video that gets me is when a boy sways his little hips close behind his mother, who “sexually bends.” The way they dance may be acceptable in their own country, but in the United States, we hope it’s not in the case of young children.

Dirty dancing is not new, and there are other dances that were bashed for being too scandalous at a few times. Take the waltz, for instance. When it became popular in Europe in the late 1700’s and the early 1800’s, moralists (some of them Catholic officials) decried over it because it was face to face with so little space, thus banning it in most towns. Some Chinese teachers, parents, and commentators also denounced the dance for the same reason when schools first implemented it in their curriculums in 2007. The Education Ministry first mandated that students should dance it to combat childhood obesity. 

Cancelling dances over fears of freak dancing is not enough. Ditto for just telling them, “There is to be no grinding, freaking, or “sexual bending” at the dance. You should dance face to face with space. You should keep both feet on the floor.” There are more effective ways of promoting wholesome dancing in school dances, not just proms and homecomings. One way is to have them sign a contract and have them follow specific dancing rules. It does some good, but there’s more to ensuring that they dance appropriately.

I believe that proper dancing starts at home. As a child, I learned how to dance the Twist, the Chicken Dance, the Macarena, and other clean party dances through dance videos and my parents. I think that parents should teach their children and teens alike how to dance appropriately as well. There’s no need to either enroll them into expensive ballroom dance studios or pressure schools to mandate cotillions (group dancing reminiscent of the early to mid-1800’s) on prom or homecoming participants. Proper dancing is all about having students use their common sense, and parents and teachers are here to make sure they use it and learn to use it."

The Gradebook welcomes guest posts on topics relating to education and schools in Florida and the Tampa Bay area. Please send your contributions to Jeff Solochek at solochek@sptimes.com. No promises that we'll post something just because you sent it, but we certainly will give every item consideration.

[Last modified: Thursday, October 7, 2010 9:46am]

    

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