Who’d have thought that a high school dance called a Turkey Morp could be a policy proving ground. But when you’re trying to turn back the clock on just how kids are dancing these days, every dance is a test.
Saturday night at Oak Park and River Forest High School, the Turkey Morp was deemed a success by both the school administration and student government leaders who are trying to find a middle ground between Fred and Ginger and the more audacious aspects of what passes for modern dance.
“A morp (prom spelled backward) is a school sponsored activity for students on the weekends. It gives the students something productive and fun to do,” said OPRF Student Activities Director Cindy Milojevic.
Earlier this year, students and faculty had some disagreement about what is considered responsible and respectful. Mainly, the style of dancing the students partake in. Students who attended September’s morp were surprised to see a sudden crackdown on the physical dancing style, which has become a social norm.
“The security was taking kids ID’s and threatening students if they danced too closely,” said Student Council President Aimee Reynoso.
In the most recent edition of the school’s community newsletter, Superintendent Susan Bridge detailed what she considered to be responsible and respectful behavior at dances. Among the items listed were decent dress, abstinence from controlled substances, and the dancing itself.
“There is a place for everything and a school dance is not the place to dance inappropriately,” said Milojevic.
From swing to hip hop, dance has always served as a form of rebellion and expression. Reynoso believes the physical style of dancing seen at OPRF comes from what most kids see in the media every day.
“The students see this type of dancing as a change of the times. It’s not just us, it is completely normal around the country,” Reynoso said.
The backlash following September’s morp was evident. Students were not happy with the new rules. Many students felt the administration was undermining their ability to have fun.
“We approached the administration after we got a lot of complaints about the first morp from the student body,” Reynoso said.
The administration offered student council a chance to voice their thoughts and concerns in an open forum. Among those in attendance were Bridge and Assistant Superintendent Donna Stevens.
“The open forum was kind of a reality check for them. That is when we decided to create a committee to go more in depth on this issue,” Reynoso said.
The goal of the “morp” committee was to find some sort of a compromise between the students and administration. The members of the committee explored options that could encourage students to dance differently. Among the solutions that the committee came up with were; a change in the type of music played, offering students refreshments, and opening the student center balcony to offer more space.
The first dance under the new rules was the formal Homecoming dance in October. Prior to the dance Bridge and Reynoso made announcements to the school making sure the students knew what was expected of them.
“The results were very positive, homecoming was highly successful. The kids had a great time,” Milojevic said.
The high school administration hopes that the changes made at homecoming will continue to be successful at future events. Milojevic wants the high school’s tradition of holding informal dances to continue, but ultimately, she said, that will be dictated by student behavior.
“There are a lot of schools that have eliminated their school dances other than the formals, because it is a lot of effort,” Milojevic said. “We don’t want to do that, I hope we can continue to approach the dances from a platform of mutual respect and have a lot of fun.”