Diego Lucas Ocampo faces off against Elliot Silva in a dance battle at Winter Formal. Dance battles often occur at school dances as the crowd circles around two particularly enthusiastic dancers. Photo by Donovan Selfridge

School dances bring to mind many different thoughts for different people. Weird lighting, a sense of awkwardness, outdated music and the pressure to find someone to go with are the negatives that often come to mind when thinking back on a school dance. I used to feel the same; however, now school dances are something I actually look forward to.

Despite being a senior, I had never been to a school dance here at Franklin. The prospect was a little frightening, especially when I was a freshman. None of my friends ever wanted to go, and school dances weren’t something I was about to undertake alone. And asking someone to go with me? Out of the question. Then COVID came, wiping out my sophomore year and any potential dances that came with it. After avoiding the dances in junior year, I realized my time is running out. I made a promise to myself: I would attend every high school dance my senior year had to offer in order to give myself a complete high school experience.

Prior to my decision, I had only ever been to one school dance: a Halloween dance at Mt. Tabor Middle School. It was BAD. I was an awkward little 7th grader, and like many others, we milled about like ants in a colony until the music got too unbearable and I left. Nobody was dancing, and the few who did quickly stopped due to the fact that nobody around them was willing to give in and dance too. That led to a long seated bias that school dances consisted of people standing around with all the energy of a lethargic sloth, talking in small inclusive groups, and students too embarrassed or shy to do anything.  

Going into the Franklin Homecoming dance, I expected all that and worse. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had. People were actually dancing. I no longer felt the sense of wasted time and uncertainty; instead I was energetic, finding excitement in the school cafeteria. People were dancing in groups, bouncing in time to the music and singing along to the lyrics. It felt like a concert, but instead of the focus being on an artist on stage, it was the people you danced with. The same thing happened with Winter Formal: the venue and lights added an ethereal feel that almost made it feel like you were stepping into a different world. I haven’t been to anything like that before and I left feeling very impressed. 

Diego Lucas Ocampo, a senior at Franklin High School, feels the same way I do. “My favorite part of the dances is the time I get to spend with my friends,” he explained. Lucas Ocampo is busy after school a lot of the time, so he views it as a great way to go out with his friends and engage in something fun. “I love dancing, [and] dancing with your friends makes it even better,” he added. Lucas Ocampo often finds himself in the center of attention at school dances, unintentionally drawing a crowd due to his dance skills learned from classes outside of school. “Half the time I don’t know what the hell I’m doing,” he laughed, adding “[like] half the time I’m just doing random-ass dance moves.” He advises people to try not to be embarrassed when dancing and instead, try to just be in the moment. Lucas Ocampo is also always happy to share the spotlight; he wants more people to come into dance circles with him, allowing  themselves to have fun and not worry about what people are thinking about them. Dancing is the secret to having fun at a school dance. This shouldn’t be a surprise, seeing how it’s in the name, but I was shocked by how different of an experience it was when I actually moved my feet. No longer did I feel out of place. Dressing up and going to an event to dance with friends ended up being really fun, and I left each dance feeling tired but happy.

I recognize that dances aren’t for everyone. They involve a lot of people and a lot of noise, which can be straight up unpleasant for people who enjoy peace and quiet. Some people don’t like to dance, and that’s okay. My advice is for those who go to the dances, those who want to enjoy themselves but feel out of place: Dance. Getting into it is nothing to be ashamed of, and you’ll find that you won’t feel awkward. Next time you’re at a dance, school or otherwise, give dancing a try; you might be as shocked as I was by how much fun you actually have. 

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