April 07, 2020
Column

‘Grinding’ dances past the limits

Do you remember the Locomotion line dance? How about the Bump, where two people jumped and banged the sides of their hips together in a vain attempt to keep beat with the music?

They certainly were not the finest moments in the cultural history of dance, but they entertained, pretty innocently I might add, a generation of teenagers crammed into a gymnasium at a high school dance.

Perhaps the most risque moments at the high school dances I attended in the ’70s were when we coupled up for the traditional last slow dance of the night, “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin.

Oh the passion, the emotion and the palpable teenage hormonal frenzy that song evoked. It was definitely the make-out song of the decade.

I imagine chaperones at those dances kept an eye on where our hands were located as we danced as closely together as we could. But I suspect a few dance-floor kisses were stolen and a few feels were copped as the evening wound down and night heated up.

Our generation may not have been responsible for much. There was no war raging while we were in high school, so we didn’t stage protests. The feminist movement was well under way so we didn’t have to burn our bras or anything. But darn it, we did see to it that the rules governing distance between slow-dancing partners was obliterated and that girls no longer had to wear skirts or dresses to schools or dances.

Fast forward 30 years and it seems that the Bump and the Locomotion have given way to “grinding” or “freaking.” This steamy and sexually explicit form of dance has been around for about a decade, but it seems just now to be coming to the attention of school officials and parents around these parts.

The craze has caused two southern Maine schools to ban the practice recently, causing a flurry of newspaper stories in which teens and even some parents complained that officials are stifling teens’ creativity and imposing their moral values (heaven forbid) on a generation of teens that they just don’t understand.

They have reminded us that Elvis was thought to be obscene and that rock ‘n’ roll was considered heathen music at one time. Kids have called school leaders prudish and out of touch and said they simply do not understand that “grinding” is not about sex at all.

Give me a break.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, let me tell you what “grinding” is. It usually involves a girl and a boy facing the same direction on the dance floor. The girl bends over, sometimes grabbing her knees or her ankles. Meanwhile, her partner stands behind her with his hands on her hips, his pelvis even with her backside, “grinding” to the music. Sometimes one girl will get between two boys in a similar scenario.

Sounds like a lap dance standing up if you ask me.

The homecoming dance held at Wells High School after “grinding” was banned, led one dance-going sophomore to tell a reporter, “This homecoming is so lame. I don’t know how to dance without grinding.”

Another girl said the school was wrong to enforce the ban because there were so many worse things kids could be doing. Now there’s a standard to live by.

Locally, Brewer High School Principal Becky Bubar said “grinding” was not a problem at her school.

“We haven’t banned it because we haven’t had to. If we see something on the dance floor we feel is inappropriate, we go up to the students and tell them so and that’s the end of it. So far we have found them to be quite respectful,” she said.

At Bangor High School, Principal Norris Nickerson said he had read the same newspaper articles I had and he certainly has witnessed a few dances. Nickerson said the issue did concern him and that he and his staff were looking into it.

“We want to make sure that if this is a problem that we deal with it appropriately,” he said.

Here is what I’m thinking. Whatever happened to school officials simply saying no. Disagree with me if you will, but I think it’s OK for schools to say “grinding up against a girl who is holding her ankles is not OK in the middle of the gym floor.”

Perhaps I’m a prude. Teens are sexual beings. No doubt about it. Parents have a hefty responsibility there. In my opinion lap dances at school can easily be banned.

No matter how angry it makes parents, no daughter should be bent over holding her ankles while her partner gyrates behind her on the gym floor. That is never OK.

Our generation may not have done much, but this much I know: “Grinding” on the public school floor is not OK.

If our generation is unable to say no to the next, then we should be ashamed.


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