Isn’t there a law written down somewhere that requires school dances end with “Stairway to Heaven”? What happened to that? Was the law repealed? Or is there just no enforcement?

I didn’t have my usual luck in drawing numbers for extra-curricular duty sign ups. The last time I had to chaperon a dance was my first year here…16 years ago. But tonight I got to watch 200+ kids wiggle for an hour and a half.

Wiggle isn’t quite the right word. They just never stopped moving. As I recall, dances usually consisted of a lot of standing around, mixed with moments of terror.  (Sort of like war, I hear.) This was not like that. Not one of them stopped moving ever. Not for any longer than it took to get a piece of pizza or some cotton candy. Never. Stopped. Moving. If they were standing in one place (never longer than 3 minutes), they were hopping up and down, or just sort of vibrating and, well wiggling. After 3 minutes of that, small groups would just randomly run outside, or to another part of the multipurpose room. More groups would follow, and the whole crowd would flow like an amoeba. If they all recognized and liked a “song” there was lots of arm waving and more hopping up and down, and occasionally some group moves like they’d all seen the same video. There was also a lot of skipping. A lot of skipping. And oh yeah, arm waving.

With the girls (probably 2/3 of the crowd — I would have killed for that ratio in junior high, and then died of fright at the reality of it) it was like this:

Small group of 2-5 out on the dance floor, sort of hopping around. 1-3 others see said group across room. Both groups scream upon sighting and recognizing each other. The smaller group, for the first few steps, walks briskly toward the larger group, then as the excitement builds, begins to skip. The larger group now begins to hop up and down with the music, and maybe scream a bit more as the smaller group approaches. The smaller group now runs the last few feet to join the larger group, and uses tiny, little, quick steps to stop. They join in the hopping and arm waving and singing along. Group hug while hopping, maybe a group scream. As the song transitions to one that sounds exactly the same, the new combo group runs outside saying they hate that song: brisk walk, skip, run, scream. Back in 5 minutes.

The boys tended to run in smaller packs, with a lot of lone wolves on the perimeter. They also tended to play with their complimentary glowsticks a lot more; throwing, whacking, sword fighting, using as microphone. There was actually a lot of inter-mingling and co-ed hopping up and down, and once they even tried to do a conga/bunny hop line, but so many of them tried to join at once, they ended up going in a spiral and trapping themselves.

The dj played one “slow song.” I counted four “couples” holding each other at arm’s length and sort of shuffling about. Each couple had several kibitzers, watching and commenting, and yes, hopping up and down. It was actually mighty cute. (At that last dance 16 years ago, most of the chaperons’ time was spent prying kids apart.)

I didn’t recognize a single track the dj played until the end. And then I almost died.  Now remember, I was a teenager in the 70’s. I was there. I always say that no decade had a greater variety of music, but there was a lot of shlock. The only reason I saw those guys at a Day on the Green at the Oakland Colosseum in 1979 was because my girlfriend loved them. I always agreed with the magazine writer that said Steve Perry sang like a duck. And now here’s a crowd of 200 middle schoolers in 2010 singing along, knowing EVERY SINGLE WORD of…

“Don’t Stop Believing.” (Or is it Believin’?) By Journey.

The dj even called it a sing-along song. They were waving their glowsticks and cellphones like lighters, and drowning out the duck with their singing.

Even the lone wolves were smiling at the end. Sniff.