School dances (Ericas drawing)

Evolution of school dance culture

Promenade (Prom) now means elaborate “promposals,” extravagant gowns, photoshoots to upload to social media and expensive, high-end transportation means. Prom twenty years ago meant knocking on your date’s door to pick them up, an economical and classic dress, a photo or two taken by the parents and driving to Prom. This change to favor a more formal prom both creates a better and more memorable experience for the two, but also increases stress levels and expectations.

School dance culture has changed significantly over the years as popular culture has evolved. Changing music culture nowadays paired with increasing social media use has led to a change in the very attitude and behavior with which teenagers choose to conduct themselves.

The original purpose of Prom was to create an environment for high school students to learn how to act in a formal and cordial setting. It was also intended to be a fun night for graduating high school seniors, and create memories that these seniors will cherish forever.

Even though some students and young adults favor the Prom of years ago and look down upon the excessive extravagance at today’s school dances, these changes in behavior over the years are natural and are to be expected as popular culture itself changes. Many new songs in the music industry today appear to condone or even encourage inappropriate dancing and behavior. Teenagers then bring this attitude to Prom, leading to grinding on the dance floor as opposed to the slow and more appropriate dancing from years past. For students who don’t feel comfortable dancing in that fashion, seeing their peers engage in such inappropriate behavior can be rather traumatizing and unsettling.

Another new and growing Prom trend is the Prom after-party. Twenty years ago, Prom was the party. Today, teenagers flock to crazy after-parties where alcohol and drugs are common. The issue of illegal Prom after-parties has become so prevalent that some schools now even throw their own after-parties in the attempt to prevent their students from attending ones where illicit substances are present.

But even though the specific ambience and culture of the traditional Prom may have slowly developed over the years, the key components of Prom still remain constant. Girls still struggle to pin boutonnières on their dates’ jacket lapels. Parents still share the excitement over their child’s first high school dance. Students still look excitedly to Prom as the year comes to an end. While small things have changed over the years, the essence of Prom as a last formal night for upperclassmen is one that will remain beyond its time.

By Irene Zhou, Staff writer

Editorial Cartoon by Erica Chang


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