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The Origin of the Prom


Prom (n.)- a ball or dance, as of a particular class at a school or college.


Although the exact date of the first prom is unknown, I would be willing to take a guess on what went on that night. I see guys in one corner, girls in the other (sounds kind of like middle school, huh?). I see a band consisting of a violin and contra bass providing the musical atmosphere. I also think that each kid ate dinner with their parents that night, and everyone just met at the school for the dance.
 

Dances at the beginning of the century were a stiffer and more proper than what we are accustomed to today. Without fancy prom dresses, rental tuxedos, DJís with tons of equipment, and rented halls decorated to the extreme with balloons and streamers, proms were probably a lot less stressful and much simpler.
 

As time progresses, so did the style of the prom. In the 1930ís and 1940ís, brass bands might have been introduced into the scene, as jazz and swing began to become the craze. Along with this music, kids were dancing more than ever, trying to dance away their fears about being drafted into the war or worrying about working on the family farm instead of going to college.
 

In the next few decades, prom began to change into what it is today. It began to become customary for girls to go all out, buying the prettiest, fluffiest prom dresses to wear for just one night. The idea of having a prom king and queen was introduced by a high school along the way to add to the notion of recognizing popularity at every possible moment. Small bands began to get booked as doo-wop and rock and roll picked up momentum among teenagers.
 

It wasnít until the 1980ís and 1990ís that a high school prom began to look like what we see today. DJís were introduced into society, and at that moment, live music at the prom became less common. Who would want just one band when a DJ could provide every song you ever wanted to hear?
What was once probably just a dance for seniors began to become a mixed dance of differing grade levels in some schools. This factor usually occurred because of cost or size. If a senior class wasnít big enough, an additional grade was invited to minimize the price of tickets to rent out a nice room and pay for food and the DJ.
 

Other things that became popular over the years were prom themes. Students voted on a theme that they wanted to use as the title of their prom. Some schools choose to pick a theme and carry it throughout the decorations, where others choose a song to be their prom motto. ďIíve Had the Time of My Life,Ē chosen by the Class of 2000, is an oddity, being that the past few yearís prom themes were all current releases. This song, from Dirty Dancing, expresses that high school years are the best of times.
 

After-proms were an idea created by parents and schools to help keep kids off the roads and not involved in alcoholic parties. A brilliant idea, most schools offer it as the popular party to attend immediately after the dance.
 

Proms have definitely gone through a makeover throughout the past century. Compared to a prom 100 years ago, we now have loud music full of bass, kids who spend fortunes on clothes and accessories, and classes who spend months preparing one nightís worth of dancing. But one thing still remains: Proms are a blast! So when you are dancing away this May 12th, remember that you are adding to a tradition that teenagers just like you began over one hundred years ago.

 

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