Nova Scotia

5 reasons why teen school dances rock

What makes a successful junior high school dance? CBC's Natalie Dobbin hung out at one and came up with five reasons why it works at Gorsebrook Junior High School.

Gorsebrook Junior High School in Halifax holds about a half-dozen dances a year, and they're fun

Around 240 students attend the dances, especially the recent holiday bash. (Natalie Dobbins/CBC)

Green and red lights splash across the gym walls. The disco ball spins. Teens belt out Justin Bieber's new song Love Yourself.

It's the holiday dance at Gorsebrook Junior High School in Halifax.

And it's one of about six dances held through the year that would not be possible without teacher volunteers.

The CBC's Natalie Dobbin hung out at the dance with some of these volunteers. Everyone appeared to be having a blast. She came back with five reflections why:

1.Students want their teachers at the dances

One of the faces students see as they enter the school is that of Basil Rose, a Grade 9 English teacher.

It's something students are happy about, too.

"They say, 'Are you coming to the dance, Mr. Rose?' and if I didn't show up as a volunteer, they probably wouldn't have the dance," Rose said.

Five or six volunteers are needed in each half of the dance, he said.

2. Teacher volunteers lay down the law

Rose monitors the gym during the dances.

"I usually to tell the kids that I'm the butt police," Rose said.

They call me "the butt police," says Grade 9 English teacher Basil Rose. (Natalie Dobbins/CBC)

But when does he intervene?

"Whenever the hands get a little too low."

Rose says a lot of students from other schools are signed into the dance, and teachers make sure they don't have any issues at the schools they're coming from.

They also make sure kids don't try to sneak into the building — or sneak anything in in their backpacks.

Luckily, Rose said, these type of issues don't happen very often.

3. Music turns on, phones come out

Tech education and English teacher Monique Ouellette used to get signed into the Gorsebrook dances when she was in junior high.

Now, she watches from the sidelines with art teacher Mary Chisholm, who also feels nostalgic.

Teachers Monique Ouellette and Mary Chisholm volunteer at the dances they went to as kids. (Natalie Dobbin/ CBC)

"I went here and I remember being in this gym. It's crazy," Chisholm said.

Chisholm said it's adorable to watch the students slow dance with an arms length distance between them.

"They're growing up," she said. "They're learning how to be people — and intimacy in some ways."

One thing that's different from dances in the 90s (besides a lack of Nirvana) and that's cellphone photos.

"It's still so pure and innocent, which is still so lovely to watch," Chisholm said.

4. Choreography is key

Rose is always impressed with the dancing, and recalls styles throughout the years.

"Breakdancing would have been the first, the start of it, and then any kind of a fashionable dance like the Macarena and things like that. That's what I'm talking about," Rose said. "They're really good and they can dance and have the moves that I sure don't have."

This year, there's also a dance team that's doing a mix of cheerleading and dancing. The team leader is Grade 7 and 8 English and social studies teacher Jillian Baker, who used to be on a national cheerleading team.

5. Dances build community  

Dances are very important for the Grade 7 to 9 students, who work hard each day at school, Baker said.

Students can hang out without worrying about classes, she said.

"The kids are always trying to do their best and impress their parents, do good for themselves, just be successful," Baker said.

"I feel like a dance allows them to ... show like a different side of themselves."

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