School cancels homecoming dance because of twerking’ students
BENNINGTON — Administrators at Mount Anthony Union High School have canceled the homecoming dance scheduled for Sept. 20 because the popularity of an aggressive and sexually suggestive dance has made some students feel uncomfortable and unsafe, said Principal Sue Maguire.
In a letter, Maguire said the dance, called “twerking,” had been popularized by Miley Cyrus at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. Since then, the way students have been dancing at school functions has “crossed the line of what we can condone as appropriate behavior at a school,” she said.
Terry Creach, a choreographer who teaches dance at Bennington College, said twerking comes from hip-hop dance culture.
“It’s very much a hip-thrusting, kind of with-your-legs-bent move so it’s very graphic-looking,” he said.
“However, when you see it as a solo, it looks like it’s right out of West African dancing. … It’s just a hip action which American culture has never been very comfortable with ever,” Creach said. “I think the big difference here is when two people are doing it together, it looks like graphic sex. When it’s a solo, it doesn’t.”
Creach, who has been involved in the art of dance for about 40 years, acknowledged that there has been a history of one generation being shocked by the way a later generation dances.
“Some of the religions in the U.S. think of dancing as being sinful and sexual as opposed to an art form or being sensual,” he said. “… For those of us in the dance world, we feel very limited by that perspective.”
Maguire said administrators met last year with members of the student government to discuss the concerns. She said despite a “respectful conversation” between students and educators, “we have yet to come up with a solution.”
“We plan on continuing the dialogue in hopes that we can work together to reinstate dances,” Maguire said. “Unfortunately, our young people are continuously exposed to a culture filled with sexualized images and messages, but this should not and cannot be permitted at our school,” Maguire.”
Other activities related to homecoming, such as spirit week, a pep rally and the football game against Colchester High School on Sept. 26, will continue as planned.
Maguire said administrators were concerned that some students had become part of the dancing without their consent.
“When faculty spoke with some of our students about how the dancing starts, we were told ... that someone just comes up behind you and starts,” the principal said.
“One female described being uncomfortable when a male student she didn’t know started ‘grinding’ with her from behind,” Maguire said. “Other students in the discussion agreed with her and said it is not uncommon. They (said) no one asks permission before ‘grinding’ nor do they ask the other person if they want to dance.”
Maguire said she wrote the letter to discourage “misinformation” about why the homecoming dance had been canceled.
Some parents have asked why chaperones didn’t intervene, but Maguire said a dance at the school cafeteria can bring 400 to 500 students who dance in tight clusters of about 80.
“It is very difficult to get into the middle of the clusters to monitor every student who is dancing inappropriately,” she said.
In November, Jeff Maher, principal of Stowe High School, announced that all school dances for the 2013-14 school year, except for the prom, had been canceled. He cited “grinding,” which he said was “inappropriate, demeaning and does not represent our values in both school and community.”
Timothy Holbrook, chairman of the Mount Anthony Union School Board, said Wednesday he was not aware of the controversy, the cancellation of the dance or Maguire’s letter.
However, he said the board had faith in Maguire and other administrators at the school whose job responsibilities included acting quickly in situations when waiting for the next school board meeting might take too long.
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