The Semi-Formal Dance: To go or not to go?

By Natalia Dokla and Nikoline Thomassen

The semi-formal dance is an event awaited by students all throughout the middle school. Approximately 180 people attend, annually. The event is hosted at the Intercontinental Hotel near the palace of culture, tickets costing 150 pln each. But even the murmurs and chatter of the middle-school hallways can not hush the persisting question; Is it worth the money?

Students rush to the dance floor as they hear the opening to an exciting song. Picture by Lorant Bai.

According to Ms. Kisler, leader of the student council, “the 6th-grade boys take it really seriously.”

Jake L., an ASW student in 9th grade, thinks that “it was a huge hit”.

Like many other middle school dances, the semi-formal dance is a student council-sponsored event. It is the last dance out of five and also the only one that is hosted at a hotel. Ms. Kisler, who has worked at ASW for 11 years and has been the leader of the student council for 9 of those years, says that the semi-formal dance tradition has been going on long before she arrived. The last dance of the year is always hosted at a hotel as it requires less preparation than dances organized at the school cafeteria. In the past 4 to 5 years, the event has been hosted at the Intercontinental hotel, although, before that, it has been at other places like the Bristol.

On the evening of the dance, it is popular for students to gather and prepare for the event in an ensemble.  Natalia S., a student in the 9th grade, says, “I remember meeting with all my friends at one of their houses in preparation for the dance.”  

Florence M., an 8th grader who is about to attend her last semi-formal dance, says she is looking forward to “getting ready with my friends”. On arrival, students are pointed to the elevator, where they are lifted to the next floor. They then get their tickets checked by members of the student council and are permitted to enter the ballroom. The fun doesn’t start until people start packing in. From there on, everybody is occupied with a variety of activities that include dancing, taking photos at the photo booth, and stuffing themselves at the all-you-can-eat buffet.

As the excitement builds, so does the intensity on the dance floor. “People dance wildly and sometimes lose their voices because they scream at the top of their lungs,” says Boni N., an 8th grader who has been to two of the previous semi-formal dances.

“It’s an experience,” says Nina B., “You dance to ‘single ladies’, you dance with lame guys”.

Ms. Kisler, leader of the student council and Ian Wilder, a member of the student council, check people in to the ballroom. Picture by Lorant Bai.

Another one of the popular occupations at the dance is the photo booth. When asked what the most important part of the dance was, Florence answered “photo booth” without hesitation. “I take like 15 pictures and it probably reimburses the cost [of the ticket],” she says.

But perhaps the part that excites the majority of students is the buffet. Florence also says that she tries “to eat as much food as possible”. Two other interviewees confessed to stealing sodas. According to Nina B., the most exciting part of the dance is the chocolate fountain. But, apparently, the enthusiasm has led to some problems. “People kept dropping the fruits in the chocolate fountain; they would just want to dip it in, but they would usually slide right off,” says Jake.

Some say dances are not important but still really fun; others disagree. But whether you look forward to a meaningful evening or are just there to let loose, there is something for everyone at the ASW semi-formal dance.

9th grader Fiona H. says, “I don’t think that it’s important in the sense of, ‘if you don’t do this you are not going to have the ‘full middle school experience”. On the other hand, I think that it is a fun way to celebrate the end of the year, and to just have a fun night. It is a great way to spend your time with your friends.” She went to the dance because she thought that it was a part of the middle school experience which was important, as you get to know your classmates better.

Her classmate, Natalia S., has a similar view, “think the dance is definitely one of the highlights of my middle school years. It is definitely a very fun event and opportunity to get together as a community. However, I would not say that going is a necessity. I knew many people who chose not to go to the dance and that was completely fine. In other words, if someone doesn’t really want to go, they shouldn’t, but I would still encourage most people to attend.” But she also explained it as an event that definitely brings the middle school together as a community. It’s kind of a celebration of the end of the year, which is something that all students are excited about.

Picture by Lorant Bai.

Current 8th grader, Abigail B. says that there is way too much drama and gossip, but she still goes to have fun with her friends.

Many students contribute extra time and effort to make the dance  better. In her first year at ASW, Ms Kisler was the teacher to a couple of girls who made an extravagant decision. These girls, “flew to Paris a month before to buy their dresses,”, she says. “They were very elegant,”. Other students, maybe not as extreme as the ‘Paris girls’, take limousines to the entrance of the Intercontinental hotel.

In response to the big question of whether or not the dance was worth the money, most interviewees said yes without hesitation. “It is definitely a very fun event and opportunity to get together as a community,” says Natalia S.. ” If someone doesn’t really want to go, they shouldn’t, but I would still encourage most people to attend.”. Abigail B. is in 8th grade and has never been to any of the semi-formal dances. When asked about how she felt about not going, she said: “I felt bad afterward because all my friends said it was really fun.” Alisa D., a 6th grader at ASW says that she is prepared to pay the price and is excited to attend her first semi-formal dance.

Picture by Lorant Bai.

With over 200 tickets sold, the dance is going to be huge, but for some more than others. As a former 8th grader, Natalia S. and Fiona H. felt it did feel like a conclusion to their middle school years. However, they say there were many things in the last few weeks of Middle School which contributed to that sense conclusion, things such as the scavenger hunt and the middle school graduation.. Fiona H. says, “Of course it was a nice way to conclude the year and spend time with friends, but what I will probably remember more was the last day of 8th grade, that was a much more important aspect of ending 8th grade for me personally, since I feel as if this is a much more social moment to get together with your friends and just enjoy the last moment before leaving middle school.” 

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