Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Middle Grade Dances & Valentine's Day

Last Friday night I had the joy of chaperoning a middle grade Valentine's Day dance. OMG, so cute. There were so many details to take in, and I wished I'd brought my spiral notebook. But I was a little busy, and besides, I probably would've looked creepy.

If you write middle grade or YA, these notes might be helpful. We live in a very small town, and belong to a tiny school district, so I'm not sure how these scene details will compare to a big city. But some things in middle school never change!

The Setting
  • Multi-purpose room, overhead fluorescent lights turned off. Strings of red and white lights hung along each wall.
  • Photo op corner--red plastic draping the corner walls, decorated with paper hearts. Spotlight overhead. Mom with a camera ready to shoot pictures of couples and best friends.
  • Food and drink section cordoned off to the side, with moms serving snacks such as candy Kisses, grapes, and cookies. High schoolers filling Dixie cups with water & lemonade.
  • DJ crew set up on stage.
  • Folding chairs set up around the perimeter of the room.
  • Thumping dance music.
The People
  • Sixth grade girls wore cute "party dresses," with either flat shoes or Converse-style sneakers.
  • Some 7th and 8th grade girls wore party dresses & higher heels, but most wore jeans with blousy tops.
  • Some boys wore button-up shirts and dress slacks, but most wore regular school clothes (jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers).
  • DJ team consisted of three mid-20's guys. One spun the tunes, and the other two worked the crowd. They taught dance moves from the stage, and jumped down on the floor and got the kids involved.
  • Kids stood in clusters. Some remained right below the stage, following the DJ's lead in dances. Others danced in their own circles. Some mixed boys with girls, others were all boys or all girls. (Memories, anyone?)
  • Boys with damp hair and sweat running down their faces. Girls with curled hair that grew limp as the night wore on.
  • Some girls taller than boys.
  • Conga lines.
  • At the end of the dance, parents gathered at the double doors, taking it all in.
The Drama
  • A girl crying in the bathroom, with several of her friends circling her & asking what was wrong.
  • Pairs of kids, boys and/or girls, walking across the dance floor, always looking for someone.
  • When the one slow song came on...OMG, the mood in the whole place changed. Most kids scattered to the four corners of the MPR, but a few brave couples paired up and slow danced. Girls' hands on the guys' shoulders, guys' hands on the girls' waists. They swayed back and forth to the music, with a foot of space between them. Instead of looking at each other, they watched their friends through the entire dance.
For the record, one of my sons danced with a girl (one of his best friends). It took every ounce of mommy willpower to NOT whip out my phone and snap pictures. My other son was too terrified to ask someone.

How does this compare to dances at your local schools? What's your most vivid middle school dance memory, good or bad? Please share!

Happy Valentine's Day!

29 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, my son is in 7th grade and that is EXACTLY what goes on here as well. As far as memories; I think they are about the same as you mentioned although we didnt' wear the dresses :) how fun Julie! a memory invoked post...

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  2. When I was in 6th and 7th grade, my mom made me wear dresses to the dances - and I was the only one to wear a dress. It was mortifying. lol

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  3. Middle school seems to be full of drama - no matter who you are! Great tips for my MG novel - thanks, Julie!

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  4. In middle grade or primary school as we refer to is, I was part of a country dancing group that competed with other schools. Have fond memories of this and the costumes Mother made for me. :0)

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  6. Sorry, had a major typo that was driving me crazy. Take two: I taught middle school for 3 years. Yep, not much different from my middle school dances, though the dancing has changed and middle schoolers today seem much bolder then we did. And at least at the school I taught there wasn't a foot between some kiddos. Some couples and boy/girl groups dancing together we had to pry apart. ;)

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  7. Hahaha - oh the memories! What a great post, especially for those writing about it! I don't think much changes, from the sounds of things. Some things are universal. :)

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  8. Oh, the memories just flooded back, especially when you talked about the slow dancing a foot apart. Boys were scary, and if you made eye contact, OMG! I wish my son's school held dances. You dug deep, not to take a picture of your son dancing. These are wonderful observations, Julie!

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  9. Love this, Julie! And it is exactly like the MG dances at my kids' school. One other detail that our girls like to do...about half-way through the dance, several of the girls will kick off their shoes and dance barefoot. I guess they're not used to heels.

    And I am always threatened by my kids to not hang around and spy on them! :-(

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  10. It appears things haven't changed one bit.

    Thanks for the great memories.

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  11. I think this is similar to our schools. Except I love that at our middle school the dance is combined with activity night, so the gym is open to games for those kids that don't want to dance.

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  12. Awh! That brings me back. I'll never forget when the head girl asked the head boy out and he turned her down so she asked his best mate who said yes.

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  13. omg--AWESOME! *snort* "the drama" is my favorite part. LOL! "This American Life" (NPR) did a show called "Middle School" before Christmas that was fantastic. You should search their site and download/listen. Your post reminded me of it.

    Thanks for sharing, Julie! <3

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  14. The one valentine's dance my son went to in jr high ended with a fist fight and him sitting in my car for the rest of the night.

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  15. My kids avoided the dances for the most part. They went to a MORP, which is PROM backwards. I know there were lots of activities like ping pong, dancing, bounce houses. In my day, I just hid in a corner and felt pathetic. Wait, I still do that.

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  16. I remember those days. I wish I could go back and watch with the fresh eyes of a writer. Leaving the notebook at home was probably a good idea.

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  17. Ack! This is such a good post Julie, but it brought back flashbacks like crazy! Almost like the smell of peanut butter sometimes makes me think of my junior high school cafeteria LOL:) Thanks for sharing with us!

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  18. As I write MG fiction, this post is great for me. Thanks a lot Julie. In the book I am rewriting I do have something like a Valentine dance for the young readers :)

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  19. Some things never change. Like, the drama. : ) You must have had such fun at this dance, and watching your guys. I give you tons of credit for not breaking out that camera--how adorable that your son danced with his good friend!

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  20. That takes me back. Sounds like things haven't changed much over the years. I admire your restraint, I would have been total crazy mom, snapping away with the pictures. :)

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  21. OMG that's soooo CUTE! I love it. I would have broken out the phone cam. I'm terrible that way. My son did NOT go to the last dance, as he doesn't "dance" and there weren't enough other forms of entertainment. Oh Middle school.

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  22. OMG! The memories this brought back! I totally want to write an MG just to have a dance scene now! Thanks, Julie. What great memories!

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  23. Awwww!
    And for the record, I would have TOTALLY snapped a picture!! LOL

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  24. Oh man, I can just imagine the mood shift when the slow song came on. How cool you got to be a fly on the wall.

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  25. Thanks for sharing some of your middle school memories, guys!

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  26. Yup! Sure does sound like a middle school dance. I am not very far away from those myself. Thanks for blazing the trail with this post!

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  27. That's so cute! Thanks for sharing the imagery. :)

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  28. Ah, brings back memories of my middle grade school dances. I remember that some of the kids would roam the halls while the school dances weere in progress, not that you could roam that much. There were gates that blocked most of the halls off.

    My son never went to any of his school dances, so I never had the chance to be a chaperone.

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful imagery. I'm taking notes.

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