REMEMBER WHEN ROCK WAS YOUNG before MTV, music videos, tape decks and discs -- and "fun" meant the weekly teen dances? Local teens are returning to the pastime their parents once enjoyed, but with a '90s flavor.
The Teen Supreme Nightclub, sponsored by the Columbia Association and held the second Saturday of every month at the Supreme Sports Club in Columbia, attracts350 to 400 county teens. Held in the portion of the building that used to be a roller rink, the renovated club provides plenty of space for young people ages 13 to 17 to dance to tunes played by a radio celebrity disc jockey.
"CA wants to provide entertainment for teens that is safe and funin a drug- and alcohol-free environment," said Ajom Ali, teen entertainment coordinator. Ali is 28 and a former advertising-promotions director for Tee-Time, a golf magazine. He was hired by CA this past September to "spice up" the entertainment program.
Some things neverchange: The friendly though watchful eyes of four adults collecting admission fees and stamping hands at the beginning of this month's dance follow the steady stream of young people flowing into the club.
"If we smell alcohol, we don't let them in. I haven't seen any instances of kids who are drinking," Ali said. All teens must show proof of county residency. Once inside the dance area, some 15 volunteer chaperones -- mostly CA employees -- and security guards and off-duty police officers mingle in the crowd.
Giant images of favorite record ing artists, such as M.C. Hammer, often are projected on an 8-by-6-foot screen. The bigger-than-life figures provide an impetus for teens to move and groove on the dance floor amid the myriad patterns of flashing lights. Those less inclined to dance hang around the perimeter of the dance floor, somehow managing to watch the video screen and the dancers at the same time.
Columbia resident Avi Kline, 15, a ninth-grader who attends a private school, attends the Teen Supreme functions because "it's something us kids can do."
"There are not that many places to hang out in Columbia," Kline said.
"Teen Supremeis great, it has good music and it gives people a chance to socialize."
Teens can purchase refreshments at the snack bar nearby; free Cokes were provided at a recent dance by Mid-Atlantic Coca-Cola.
Supreme Teen dances are free to Columbia Package Plan members; non-members pay $7. Ali says all of the money goes back into the program.
Each event costs $1,200 to $1,500 for the DJ, equipment, rental of space, security, contest prizes and advertising.
Ali says he wants to attract a wide range of county youths. Teen entertainment surveys that he distributed to eight high schools indicate that 62 percent ofthe young people who attend the Teen Supreme dances are from Columbia.
"With any teen nightclub, after a while, the crowd molds itselfinto a set personality," Ali said. He referred, for example, to the wide variety of music that was available at Teen Supreme's beginning --which has since evolved toward mainly rap and rhythm and blues.
That's why Ali organized another event, the Top-40 Video Dance Party,scheduled for last night at Slayton House in the Columbia village ofWilde Lake. The dance is for older teens, ages 15 to 18.
Already,Ali plans to increase the frequency of Teen Supreme dances gradually. By April, the dances will be held weekly. He is especially interested in getting local and area businesses to donate sodas or video equipment and the like for an evening.
"I'm getting a good response from the companies who are interested in the welfare of teens," he said.
So far, in addition to Mid-Atlantic's sodas, Domino's Pizza has donated pizzas and Hardee's has made burgers and french fries available.
Ali also wants input from the teens themselves and is organizing a teen advisory council made up of representatives from each county high school.
Liane Surbrook is a member of the board.
The 17-year-old Atholton High senior has never been to a Teen Supreme dance."I don't like R&B (rhythm and blues), rap or pop," she explained. She did, however, plan to attend the Top 40 video event because "they will play the music that I like."
"Teen-agers need a place where they can go and have fun rather than hanging out at the mall," she said.
"Ajom's idea of trying to get teens together from different highschools is really great."
Ali has relied on the teen surveys, which include questions about the youth's opinions of the current program. Other questions on the surveys ask about musical preferences, favorite DJs and what teens consider a reasonable price for pizza, hot dogs and nachos.
Such surveys and the first council meeting held about two weeks ago indicated that the most important issue was the minimum age for entry, which is 13. The majority of youth surveyed wantedthe age requirement pushed up to 14 for the Teen Supreme dances.
So, beginning Jan. 11, the minimum age requirement to get into the dances will be 14, but younger teens need not despair.
The Columbia Association's Teen Center -- an organization that provides various activities for students in middle school and high school -- located in the Columbia village of Oakland Mills, provides the All Middle SchoolParty for youngsters ages 10 to 14 on the third Friday of every month.
For those who are reluctant to dance, a recreation room is available for playing games. The $2 admission fee includes dancing and games from 7 to 10 p.m.
Director Mindy Orenstein plans holiday parties and other events throughout the year for ages 10 to 18.
Ali hopes to enlist TV, radio and sports celebrities for a celebrity basketball Jan. 11.
In February, Ali hopes to start Club Columbia.
Young people who join will receive an ID card so they can attend the various events sponsored by CA. Membership will be $5 for package-plan members, $10 for others, and cardholders will be eligible for special door prizes and raffles and to earn points for trips and T-shirts with special logos.