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WELLS – Students at two southern Maine high schools have had cold water thrown on their steamy dances at school events.
Wells and Cape Elizabeth this fall banned a dance style known as “grinding,” which features boys grinding their pelvises against girls’ backsides. The dance, school officials said, is sexually suggestive and has no place in schools.
Meanwhile, students at Concord High School in New Hampshire are trying to reach an agreement about grinding that will allow their homecoming dance to go forward. Originally scheduled for last weekend, it was cancelled because of concerns that students would not respect the ban on grinding.
“Given that this is still a school setting and it is a school-sponsored activity, it is not a place where kids come to grind,” said Eileen Sheehy, assistant principal at Wells High School.
But defenders of grinding say the dance is a sign of the times, like the twist or disco in years past.
“There are so many worse things we could be doing,” said Erica Boulay, a senior at Wells High School.
The ban in Wells was implemented last spring and tested for the first time at a homecoming dance this month. Students who do the grind get one warning and are escorted off the dance floor if they continue.
In Concord, about 150 students walked out of a dance last month when the administration enforced rules against grinding.
The school has said it’s prepared to cancel all school dances unless a solution is found, and students have organized a meeting to discuss the issue on Friday.
“Getting everyone involved in the process is healthy,” Principal Gene Connolly said. “But the bottom line is there will be no grinding.”
At the Oct. 6 dance in Wells, the dance floor filled up as the music played and a laser disco ball rotated. A few students danced some swinglike moves on the side, but most congregated in a big writhing clump.
Connor Thomes, a sophomore, broke away from the clump and said most students were at a loss because they did not know how to dance anything else.
“This homecoming is so lame. I don’t know how to dance without grinding,” she said.
Cape Elizabeth High School cracked down this fall after a schoolwide discussion about what is appropriate at a public high school.
Principal Jeffrey Shedd said parents and chaperones had been coming to him with concerns about the dancing style at the high school for several years.
Many students were not happy with the ban, but the usual numbers still showed up at the homecoming dance last month, Shedd said.
Debbie Cushing, head of the high school parents association, said she supports Shedd’s decision, but she also understands why teens object.
“I can understand this is how they think they should dance. This is what they see on MTV, this is how they dance at the clubs,” Cushing said.
Grinding has generated controversy in other places as well.
In Orange County, Calif., a principal canceled all school dances this year, saying he was appalled at all the grinding and skimpy clothing.
Culture clashes are nothing new over dance styles.
In the 1960s, the twist was banned at Catholic high school across the country for being too lewd.
When Elvis Presley first appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” he was shown only from the waist up because his pulsating hips were considered too risque for a national TV audience.