Sunday, September 16, 2007

Schools monitor 'inappropriate' dancing

Chicago Sun-Times, September 16 2007

Fliers announcing this month's Evanston Township High School homecoming dance carry the warning: "salacious or inappropriate dancing" -- often called "juking" -- is outlawed. Dance tickets at Naperville North High are even more specific: "sexually explicit" and "front-to-back dancing will not be permitted." As the homecoming dance season approaches, Chicago-area schools are wrestling with how to stomp out sexually suggestive dancing, or juking, especially one version in which a girl grinds into a boy, her back to his front.

"It's simulated sex. That's my definition of juking, and scarily, the kids are very good at it," said Bruce Romain, Evanston Township High associate principal. "We don't think it's school-appropriate."

Locally, the latest versions of dirty dancing have become such a concern that, for the first time, a group of Illinois administrators who run high school dances will take up the topic at their November convention. Plans for a seminar titled "Dr. No: Controlling Your Dance" grew out of repeated requests from members of the Illinois Directors of Student Activities for ideas on how to handle suggestive dancing, said the group's president, Therese McLaughlin.

"Everybody is running into it," said McLaughlin, athletic director at Thornton Fractional North in Calumet City.

Some kids say adults take juking more seriously than they do. "It sounds all sexual, but pretty much, you're just dancing and having fun," said Kimberly Davis, 18, a June graduate of West Leyden High in Northlake.

Fueled by images on music videos, juking can be found among city and suburban kids, black, white and Hispanic. Intensity levels vary. Even some middle schoolers are doing it. Two middle school couples at Chicago's Talman Elementary had to be ejected from the Halloween Dance last year because of their suggestive front-to-back dance moves.

"They were emulating what they see on TV," said Talman Assistant Principal Joseph Shoffner.

Oak Park's Julian Junior High has started making kids sign a "no juke dancing" agreement if they want to attend the eighth-grade dance. Last year, said Principal Victoria Shartz, "I thought it worked very well."

Spotting dancers who cross the line can be especially difficult in schools where hundreds of kids pack a dance floor and gravitate into clumps, sometimes even encircling jukers and protecting them from ready view. A change of perspective helps. Oak Park-River Forest High positions staff on three risers against the dance hall wall so they can look down into the crowd, said Cindy Milojevic, OPRF assistant principal for student activities.

"It allows our security to see what's going on a bit more clearly," Milojevic said.

During dances at Chicago's Senn High, a security guard -- armed with a walkie-talkie and stationed in the gym balcony -- calls in the location of offending dancers to staffers on the gym dance floor, said Principal Richard Norman. "No juking" signs are plastered around the gym. Naperville North also uses chaperones in the balconies, but arms them with cell phones -- part of a crackdown that began after a particularly wild 2003 homecoming dance. That year, said activities director Jennifer Baumgartner, "the dancing was horrible. It was inappropriate, a lot of front-to-back dancing. . . . We are not promoting a nightclub atmosphere. It's still a school dance." The gyrating was so racy, Baumgartner said, even some students complained. "We had a lot of kids, this was their first experience at a school dance and they weren't comfortable with it.'' As a result, all dance tickets now specifically prohibit "front-to-back dancing" and "sexually explicit" moves, Baumgartner said. The policy also is posted in student handbooks and mentioned at class assemblies.

In addition, Naperville North has doubled its number of chaperones and breaks up "techno house music" that often accompanies juking with "older stuff," Baumgartner said. Violators are ejected, must call their parents immediately and can't attend the next dance, Baumgartner said. "This is year four that we are going into this policy, and kids know now [what's expected]," Baumgartner said. In fact, she said, attendance at the turnaround dance that caused the initial crackdown is up by 800 kids, to about 1,700 students.

Evanston High staff sat down with its student council to craft some guidelines after what seemed to be a new low during the 2004 homecoming dance, which featured mostly hip-hop music.

School officials were concerned about "simulated sex" dancing and boys who were spotted leaning against a wall, each with a girl bent over in front of him, grinding her rear into her partner's crotch. "Even some students complained that this was ridiculous," Associate Principal Romain said.

During a meeting with student council members, kids insisted, "This is how we dance. Weren't you young once?" Romain recalled. "I said to them, 'If I asked you to dance at homecoming, would you expect me to juke with you?' They said, 'No, that's different.' I said, 'Well, this is different, too. We're not in someone's basement.'"

By 2005, new rules emerged: "The feet stay on the floor. The hands stay off the floor. They can't lean against the wall. And they must dance in an upright position," Romain said. And, for the third year, even parents are being told in writing that "salacious" dancing and "juking" is prohibited. "It's still a concern," Romain said. But "I felt much better last year with the way things went."

Some kids say juking is a way for girls to gain attention and project sexiness. At some schools, it's almost a competitive sport. "In high school it's all about . . . who can do the craziest position," said Jasmine Conner, 18, who saw kids sneak in some racy moves at Homewood-Flossmoor High dances before her June graduation. "What girl can juke better than this girl?. . . .

"Juking is like, if I can be perfectly honest, it's kind of like sex, but with all your clothes on. It's just a good old grinding on a guy, to the beat of the music, [with] you backed up in front of him." For kids, the suggestive gyrations of juking may be "a symbolic way of showing that they are grown up," said Bernard Beck, emeritus professor of sociology at Northwestern University.

"Grownups are sexual and they [kids] are projecting the fact that they are sexual," Beck said. Though some adults may wonder what's next on the dance floor, Beck said, "there's always something." "One of the things about culture is it's creative," Beck said. "There's always room for invention. There's always room for shock."

"We are not promoting a nightclub atmosphere. It's still a school dance.

THIS JUST IN: The Ed Sullivan Show has decided to broadcast Elvis Presley from the WAIST UP, citing "salacious or inappropriate dancing." New groundbreaking studies from the Vatican also report that dancing is "suggestive" and "lewd." A leading social theorist released this statement:

"What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?"
-Plato, 4th century BC

Raunchiness is part of youth, and increasing raunchiness is part of cultural shift. The teens are supposed to relax and have fun. The school does have the responsibility to check in with the complaints of the students who are uncomfortable with it, but trying to "stomp out sexually suggestive dancing" would basically stomp out dancing altogether. The school has the right to manage their dances however they like--after all, the kids aren't required to show up--but they should know what their students expect.

So if you don't want that sort of thing at your event, turn off the hip-hop and club/house/trance beats. How about something nice and clean, like, say, waltzing? Oh, wait...

"The indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced ... at the English Court on Friday last ... It is quite sufficient to cast one's eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs, and close compressure of the bodies ... to see that it is far indeed removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females. So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now that it is ... forced on the respectable classes of society by the evil example of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion."
- The Times of London, 1816


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