Dance Fever

My blog pal Chesapeake Bay Woman wrote about high school dances recently and the length of my comment made it obvious that I needed to devote some space here to my memories of those fine co-ed traumatic  social events from the mid-1980s.


So many memories came rushing back as I thought about the dances in junior high and early high school. First of all, most of them were held in the school cafeteria, tables folded up and pushed against the walls, access to the cafeteria line area blocked. I remember the panicked feeling of trying to select just the right outfit. Of waiting for one particular boy to ask you to be his date, and, when that didn’t happen, accepting the invitation of an altogether nice boy who wasn’t your first choice.


THEN there was the dancing.


I recall the awkwardness that ensued when a slow dance song turned fast (think Behind Blue Eyes, Stairway to Heaven, Come Sail Away). Do you still dance slow-dance style, or break apart and boogie?


I experienced complete mortification when a much taller date leaned over to embrace me during a slow dance, sticking his butt out in a hideous manner, causing everyone else to stop and point and laugh at us. Pretty sure it was Stairway to Heaven, so we also had that awkward slow/fast dance thing going too.


Deney24wu There was the time when my date turned all Deney Terrio on me. Everyone was gathered around him as he got all Dance Fever on his bad-ass self. Alone. Like a scene out of Fame, all the kids gathered ’round while he did that disco pointing-the-finger thing and attempted to do the splits. Travolta, he wasn’t.


And why was this so embarassing to me? Here was a teenaged boy, expressing himself through dance. As an adult, I look back and admire that he had the confidence to do that. I spent most of my teenage years trying so hard to blend in, to not stand out in any remarkable way. And that was hard enough, because I was The Girl Whose Dad Died, Poor Thing. So when That Girl dates a guy who makes it a point to call attention to himself in a most flambouyant way – well, it’s hard to blend into the woodwork.


To this day, I can’t hear a song by REO Speedwagon or Air Supply or Journey without thinking back to these dances.


And those were just the “regular” dances.  There was a Sophomore Tea each year, and the Junior/Senior Prom. The Tea (why was it still called a Tea? They weren’t serving tea and canapes by the 1980s) was, like, a medium-big deal. I remember volunteering to be a “server” when I was in 8th or 9th grade. This meant standing behind the refreshment table, ladling out punch and refilling the cookie tray. I could dress up, which meant a dress, and pantyhose! (Ladies, was I the only one who remembers being super-excited to be old enough to wear pantyhose? Now I’d rather die than wear ’em.) I was a novice leg-shaver at the time, and as I was bathing I managed to shear a good chunk of epidermis right off of my calf. It bled and bled and really smarted, and then I had giant Band-Aids unsuccessfully concealed beneath my suntan-tinted nylons. Klassy.


Purple rain By junior and senior year, dances were more fun. I remember one dance – was it 1983’s homecoming? Where we managed to play the entire Yes 90125 album, and another – I think it was senior year homecoming, where we played most of Prince’s Purple Rain (skipping Darling Nikki, of course). I’d have to devote a whole other post to the proms – I’ll simply say that as a bit of a late bloomer, I felt I was hitting my stride by the spring of ’85, scoring invitations to two other proms besides my own. I got good mileage out of my Gunne Sax tea-length, mint-green, water-satin dress and dyed-to-match shoes.


Gunne sax 1985
(Dude, where’s my leg??)


So, what memories do you have of your high school dances? Share ’em in the comments!

5 thoughts on “Dance Fever

  1. Love the dress and the hair do.
    Pretty much all of those dances were traumatic and stressful. I also had the added dilemma of my track coach always being a chaperone, which meant I may as well have had my father there staring at me the whole time. Couldn’t have had any fun even if I wanted to, and msot of the time all I wanted to do was endure the event.
    Still don’t care for public dancing even today. Love watching others dance, though.

  2. I never went to any of those dances with a date. But I do remember one dance when I slow-danced, like, 5 times with two different guys.
    Stairway to Heaven was TOO LONG.
    “To this day, I can’t hear a song by REO Speedwagon or Air Supply or Journey without thinking back to these dances.” I totally agree.

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