Hip to the max! Remembering Ames High’s dances of the past

For the past couple of years it has seemed that the following (fabricated) quotation sums up many students’ idea about a school dance: “Yo! I’m going to go to the cafeteria, blast some Ke$ha in my ears, and dance by standing with a bored look on my face extremely close to my fellow classmates! I’m glad there’s bass drum on every beat so that I know when I should change the directions of my very limited body movements!” It may be hard to imagine, but this statement has not always been an accurate description of the ingredients that make up a school dance at Ames High School. “There’s no personality at the dances now!” said guidance counselor and Ames High alum Allison DiBlasi. “[When I was a student], we would dance hard and fast all night long!” DiBlasi, who graduated in the class of 1989, said that they had more “random dances” then, not just the typical homecoming, winter, and prom dances. Dances would sometimes be held after occasions such as sports victories. “We loved to dance,” said DiBlasi. “We would dress in our gym clothes and get sweaty because we danced so much.” A surprising dance that DiBlasi mentioned was called the Mistletoe Dance, which took place in what is now the old cafeteria. It was a dance where “everyone kissed everyone.” After further investigation in an old Ames High yearbook, the true spirit of Mistletoe Dance is offered by these two quotes from two student who attended this very school 22 years ago. (Last names are abbreviated for anonymity). “At Mistletoe, no one cares who they kiss,” junior Steve B. said. “It gave me a chance to mash with girls I never thought I’d get a chance to go out with. It’s great!” “I chose quantity without hesitation,” sophomore Rachel F. said. “I lost count after 42 kisses but it got kind of scary when certain people started chasing me for a kiss.” Things were different then, as evidenced by this bizarre school-sponsored smooch-fest as well as the fact that the winter dance used to be called Christmas Formal. (This would surely attract national media attention today, lack of pine needles and all). What was on the DJ’s playlist in the late ‘80s? DiBlasi said dance music by artists like Janet and Michael Jackson was popular. Kids “would see what was on MTV” and try to emulate those types of dance moves. Before DJ’s rocked the Ames High’s dances, live rock n’ roll music was played at the events. “Local, live bands would play,” said secretary Kathy Packer, who graduated from AHS in 1978. “[And] there was a lot of dancing in groups to dances like the Bunny Hop and the Hokey Pokey.” The lack of creativity one witnesses on the dance floor today is comparable to bland, dry toast. Packer said that tuxes were common for winter formal and prom, which took place at the Iowa State Memorial Union, while homecoming stayed very casual and was in the gym. “There was also dessert and punch at the dances,” said Packer. “There was quite a large seating area to eat snacks at.” Maybe we should take some advice from the past and model our new dances after the dances of the 70s and 80s. More dance moves, more snacks, and more live rock n’ roll bands! (Illnesses might spread quickly if we brought back Mistletoe though…)