Monday, November 25, 2013

school dance chaperone

A bunch of the grownups in town decided to throw a school dance for the kids of Cambridge Bay.  Dances are held pretty regularly here, because they are a great way to give the kids something to do in a safe supervised environment on a Friday night that will keep them from running into trouble on the streets. But this weekend, the social workers, the cops, the folks from the Justice department and the teachers all decided to get together and throw a big special bash for the kids, with a real deejay, music video projections, a light show and a smoke machine. That's how I found myself volunteering as a school dance chaperone on a Friday night.

Sometimes it surprises me to remember that I'm one of the "grownups".  I bought this sweater recently while my husband protested that it was not age appropriate. "What are you talking about?" I said. "I can totally pull this sweater off." Then I saw about four other ten-year-old girls also rocking my sweater at the dance.

It doesn't seem like that long ago, the last time I was a teenager at a high school dance. We'd grumble about the deejay not playing our favourite song, we'd hide from the teachers who wanted to know if our breaths smelled like alcohol, we'd gossip in the bathroom about what girl we saw dancing with which boy. How could that possibly be over a decade ago? And now I was here as one of the grownups, making sure nobody was making out in the dark corners, no one was sneaking in with a flask.

This dance was not like the teen dances of my days, however.  For one thing, it wasn't just teenagers attending the dance. It seems like all the kids of all ages had turned out: ten-year-old girls wearing my sweater, five-year-old sisters leading their three-year-old brothers by the hand, preteens packing babies on their backs, and of course teenage boys in baseball caps and hoodies, always looking cool.

Also, there was the circles. My friends had told me about the circles. "They just walk around in circles for hours," my friend told me. I had not understood what she meant, but I could see it now.  If at my high school the default stance was to stand against the wall like a shy wallflower, here the default move was to walk around in a giant circle. Like mall walkers. Like skaters at a skating rink. I have no idea why they were doing it. It was good though; at least you're getting more exercise walking around in a big circle than standing awkwardly against a wall.

This wasn't a typical dance for the kids either. My understanding is that usually the music is played off someone's iPod. This time, my friend B was deejaying the event, with actual deejay equipments.  The kids gathered around the stage where he worked, star struck, all calling out his name with his requests. 

DJ B, looking so cool. "Play Freebird!"

They were amazed by the lights. B had set up light displays that shot sparkles of coloured light all over the gym.  The toddlers stood in front of the lights, holding out their hands and giggling when they saw the specks of light on their arms, their bodies, their faces.

The kids were also fascinated by the smoke machine. It fascinated them because, you know, they're kids, and let's be fair, smoke machines are fascinating to me as a grownup too. But some of them had never seen one before, and a few kids ran up to me alarmed.

"You must put out the fire!" they told me, frightened, "or else the smoke alarm will go off and we will all have to go outside without our jackets!"

I tried to explain to them that it was not real smoke, and they were amazed. They all gathered around the smoke machine on the stage, and soon they forgot all about the cool deejay, the music videos being projected on the gym wall, the light show.  All they wanted was to be standing right in front of the smoke machine when it shot out smoke.  

Soon, before anyone had time to react, there was a mosh pit breaking out in front of the smoke machine.  Every kid wanted to have smoke shot into their face.  The bigger kids began shoving the smaller kids out of the way, and soon enough, a small child was running away to cry quietly in the bathroom. Time to implement some crowd control.

I was assigned bouncer duty, guarding the deejay so that the kids wouldn't rush the stage in their enthusiasm for him. I soon found myself surrounded by a posse of young girls who, for some reason, thought I was really cool.  This was beyond my understanding. When I was kid, I never thought any grownup was cool and worth talking to at all. I sort of still think this.  Maybe they recognized that my sweater was really cool.

buncha shorties 
(photo by Kerri)

"Can you ask the deejay to play my song?" one girl asked me shyly.
"What song?" I said.
"Smoke Weed Every Day, by Snoop Dogg," she replied.
Um, no.

Instead, the deejay put on "What Does the Fox Say" by Ylvis, along with the music video.

"Are you guys watching this?" I demanded. "Are you seeing this? What is going on? Why is that guy dressed like a fox? Why would the fox say that? THIS IS SO WEIRD."   (I have been a little out of touch with pop culture, as I also was as a teen, wishing the deejay would play Sigur Ros instead of Britney Spears.)

But the kids were not as mesmerized as I was.  Kids are so jaded these days.

Instead, a few girls asked me to be their mommy, which instantly caused my uterus to hide in fear.  My teacher friend tells me not to get too full of myself though; they say that to a lot of people.

It was a fun night. The chaperones enjoyed themselves, and the kids seemed to have a blast too.  This is how kids should be spending their Friday nights. Not wandering the streets in the middle of a blizzard, or getting arrested at an age where they should be passing notes to the pretty girl in class that say "Do U Like Me? O Yes O No O Maybe."

As we began to clean up the gym, the kids begged us to put on another dance like this again soon. Maybe next time play more Snoop Dogg next time.