High School Dances

Artist Statement

Memories of high school do not usually involve a fondness for its educational opportunities, but rather its social opportunities outside of the classroom.  Traditionally, formal high school dances were intended to be a chaperoned introduction to social skills for teenage boys and girls for the purposes of courtship. Today, formal high school dances are elaborate events for which the student body decorates the venue to create an ambiance of enchantment.

In the course of preparation for a high school dance grand idealizations start to form about the big night.  After months of flipping through the latest issues of Teen Vogue, YM and Cosmo Girl, teenaged girls have romanticized expectations that their dates will be dashing, debonair and chivalrous, just like the handsome male models that grace the glossy pages of the magazines.  Teenaged boys on the other hand, are for the most part, just looking to get through the evening and hope to get lucky.

In a segment of Fashion Television fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld stated, “In a formal engagement men should wear black tie to allow themselves to be the backdrop for women.  This allows the women to have the freedom to express their self, display their beauty and shine like a gem.”  While teenaged boys may be able to shower, shave, throw on a sport coat and tie and be ready to go within minutes, teenaged girls spend weeks if not months preparing for their big event with extreme precision. The perfect dress, shoes, jewelry, body art, hair, makeup and nail styles are all a must for a high school formal dance.  Aside from walking down the aisle on her wedding day, the occasion of a high school dance is a teenaged girl’s opportunity to relish being in the spotlight of attention from her parents and peers as she sets her path toward womanhood.

Once the preliminaries of the event are complete, flowers are exchanged, and photographs are taken, the much anticipated thrill about the dance may unexpectedly change for the worse depending on the social graces of the teenager’s date and the level of expectation of him/her. Couples who strictly come as friends simply enjoy each other’s company, have a good time among their classmates and leave as friends. Drama and disappointment are often the conclusion for the couples who continually have their differences throughout the evening. For the couples that are seriously dating, a formal dance is just another plateau in their relationship.

Once the event is in full swing and hundreds of high school couples pack the dance floor, the combined scent of over-applied perfume and cologne, sweat and the odor of bare feet intensifies and looms over the dance floor with enormous pungency. After spending lengthy time grinding against their dates, song after song, to the steady beat of Hip Hop music, boys’ testosterone levels surge, causing a hormonal euphoria that takes over an ability to control the “appropriate” placement of hands. While some girls may reprimand their dates for these advances, others girls unabashedly invite them.

Inevitably, at some point during the evening, some teenaged boys and girls come face to face with tense relationship circumstances that may affect the rest of the night, or worse, carry on for weeks long after the dance is over. While most teenaged boys try to be gentlemen and show their dates a good time, an unintentional lack of charm and shortage of attentiveness may unwittingly ruin the evening. By failing to compliment his date on her appearance, not dancing with her, being fraternal with his guy friends or even drifting his attention towards other girls a teenaged boy can easily spoil the date and eliminate any possibility of being rewarded for his good behavior.

Through this rite of passage, a formal high school dance has become the long-established event that brings about destined moments between teenaged boys and girls. Physical boundaries are challenged, surpassed and unmet. Moments of tension, anxiety and lust are encountered. The time of adolescence towards adulthood becomes ever closer.