Pay the piper, and you get to dance Three lessons for Eddie

Elizabeth Schuett

October 14, 1993|By Elizabeth Schuett

THE principal of a Lincolnton, N.C., high school has called off the annual homecoming dance because the kids refuse to knock off the sexually suggestive bumping and grinding and clean up their dirty-dancing act.

In return, the students petitioned the county schools' superintendent to overrule the principal, but he refused. The ban stands.

A senior named Eddie complained, "A dance is meant to be a place where people can express themselves and have fun. If that happens to be by dancing dirty . . . . why not?"

Well, Eddie, there are lots of reasons "Why not?"

For starters, you must realize that you are not unique. Folks have been objecting to their kids' dancing since the beginning of recorded history.

Fred and Wilma Flintstone probably had a few choice words for Pebbles and Bam Bam the first time they saw them shake their skins to a primordial beat.

Somewhere around the end of the 18th century, a shocking display of immorality was born on the dance floors of Austria. It was called the "waltz." For the first time, couples were embracing in public. Scandalous!

By 1812, this exhibition of abandonment in three-quarter time had hit England's ballrooms. The poet Keats voiced his revulsion to ". . . seeing one's lady-love swept away in the sweaty arms of another man."

Early in the 20th century, proper Americans found the tango rather tasteless. Word was, this dance had its origins in the brothels of Buenos Aires.

In the '20s our country recoiled in horror as "flappers" in abbreviated skirts with haircuts to match, "Charleston-ed" and "black bottom-ed" the night away in some speakeasy.

With the '40s came World War II and the jitterbug. "Outrageous!" and "Depraved!" were just a few of the epithets employed by a generation shocked with the "sexually explicit" moves of this so-called "frenzied mating ritual."

In the early '60s, the "devil's own invention," known as the "twist," corkscrewed its way onto America's dance floors thanks to Chubby Checker and a few million teen-agers.

Its popularity and place in history were guaranteed when it was banned in more conservative parts of the country.

Then all hell broke loose.

And this brings us back to your generation, Eddie, and the answer to your question, "Why not?"

Well, because . . .

* Because the principal said so. That's one good "Why not." Somebody's got to be running the show, and you aren't qualified.

* Because school administrators' decisions reflect the values of their communities -- and you know who that is, Eddie?

It's your neighbors who go to work every day to help pay for your education.

* Because, Eddie, the guy who pays the piper gets to call the dance and your piper is being paid by some folks who just might happen to object to your style.

You and your classmates may have fought the good fight, Eddie, but so have all the generations that have come before you.

It looks like you guys are just going to have to wait your turn. While you're waiting, why don't you learn to waltz?

Elizabeth Schuett, a writer and teacher in Gibsonburg, Ohio, wrote this for Cox News Service.

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