TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Central High School students frustrated with heightened enforcement of rules at school-sanctioned dances are throwing their own dance at the Park Place Hotel tonight.
Teenagers from schools throughout the Traverse City area are now talking about the event. Cody Davis, a Northwestern Michigan College freshman, and Justin Riley, a senior at Traverse City West Senior High School, discussed the impetus for the alternative dance over Taco Bell at the Grand Traverse Mall’s food court.
“It’s kinda like a peaceful protest,” Riley said.
School administrators upset students when they turned on some lights in Central’s gymnasium in an effort to cut down on sexually suggestive dancing during homecoming this year, Davis said.
Tonight’s dance is a response to that.
Davis said he’s going to the dance after a senior at Central invited him. Davis doesn’t know what to expect, but he and Riley agreed about one thing.
“It’s going to garner more attention than a regular dance,” Riley said.
Student organizers of the event would not comment for this article.
Traverse City Area Public Schools officials are aware of the dance and said the district is not involved in any way.
“If that’s something they want to do, and they have a parent that can sponsor it, I think they can test the water and see how it goes,” Central Principal Rick Vandermolen said, adding, “Hopefully there will be enough supervision there and everything will be fine.”
Whether parents are involved in the dance remains unclear.
Park Place General Manager Amy Parker said an adult needs to sign a contract to host an event or function at the hotel. She said individuals who sign contracts must follow hotel policy, but she would not discuss what hotel policy entails or details about specific events or functions.
The TCAPS Board of Education and district officials are responsible for safety at school functions, including dances. Board of Education President Kelly Hall supported the changes made to dances at Central.
Hall said board members heard complaints from parents about dirty dancing after homecoming.
“The gist of their complaints is their kids did not feel comfortable,” Hall said.
District administrators must walk a line between maintaining appropriate behavior and letting kids have fun at dances.
Most students behave appropriately, but the “sexually explicit” dancing of some has become a problem, Vandermolen said. It makes administrators and chaperons uncomfortable, and Central officials started leaving some lights on in the school’s gym as a result.
“I wanted chaperons and administrators to be able to see if any student dancing needed to be addressed,” Vandermolen said.
But even partially lighting the gym is an unpopular move.
Central junior Tori Bartos is not attending the dance at Park Place tonight, but she said students feel self-conscious when lights are on at school dances.
Without the overhead lights, everyone feels more free to dance, Bartos said.
“It’s gotten to the point where it’s just really lame,” Bartos said. “I went to homecoming, and I just don’t want to go anymore.”