Pandemic or Not, Proms Are Back

Four California excessive colleges. Four Covid-influenced proms. The extra rituals of rising up change, the extra they keep the identical.

As in every other yr, teenage women in California stepped out of salons, solely to sit down in entrance of mirrors at dwelling fastidiously rearranging their coifs.

They wore jewel-toned cocktail attire and floor-skimming robes. Some strapped themselves into rhinestone-encrusted heels whereas others, planning for an evening on their ft, caught with Vans or Air Force 1s.

Their dates wore white tuxedos, three-piece fits, corsages. In Fowler, a small metropolis southeast of Fresno, there have been cowboy boots and hats.

Yet in contrast to every other yr, there have been custom-made masks to match outfits. There had been silent discos to encourage social distancing, as revelers donned headphones and danced to the beat, fairly actually, of various drummers. Vaccine playing cards or coronavirus assessments had been required for entry. In Petaluma, dinner was prepacked sandwiches eaten picnic-style on the soccer area earlier than the dancing began on the painted traces.

The 2021 promenade season has proven that American highschool rites of passage are sturdy, versatile, pandemic-proof. Teenage traditions, like youngsters themselves, have a resilience. Somehow, the promenade — that timeworn cliché of rising up — was one thing very important and emotional.

Strict pandemic guidelines meant that almost all of California’s Class of 2021 spent roughly a yr studying from dwelling. As the unfold of the virus has waned in California and across the nation, proms — even these retooled with mask-wearing and different precautions — have served the dual operate for a lot of of celebrating each the tip of highschool and the tip of the worst of the pandemic.

“For so long, I didn’t take advantage of all the moments I had in high school,” stated Michelle Ibarra Simon, a senior at Dos Pueblos High School within the Southern California metropolis of Goleta. “Covid helped me see that I was letting time fly and letting every moment slip through my fingers.” Prom, she added, “was probably one of the best moments of my life.”


At first, nobody was dancing at Encore High School’s promenade. It was an uncommon sight: Encore is a performing arts college and a number of the college students are professionally skilled dancers.

“I don’t know,” stated Marco J. Gochez, a senior on the college. “They were getting shy or weird or uncomfortable.”

Caroline Esquivel, Encore’s senior class president, theorized that maybe her classmates had been anxious after not being collectively in a gaggle for thus lengthy. The college is in Hesperia, a desert metropolis in San Bernardino County, however the promenade was held at a banquet corridor in Upland.

Soon, after dinner was served, the temper modified.

“It was like a giant mosh pit,” Ms. Esquivel stated. “Everyone was so happy, jumping and screaming.”

During Jennifer Lopez’s “On the Floor,” Ms. Esquivel and different members of her dance staff received onto the stage and carried out a contest routine of their finery.

For Jaired Mason, who graduated from Encore in 2020, attending this yr’s promenade as his finest buddy’s date helped give him a way of closure he had been lacking due to the pandemic.

Encore hosted a small, restricted promenade of about 30 folks final yr, he stated, and Mr. Mason’s class graduated over Zoom. He postponed going to the celebrated Boston Conservatory at Berklee to check dance.

The promenade signaled an finish to the uncertainty. “Especially after last night, I’m feeling really good and excited about the future,” he stated the day after the dance.

And within the fall, his future is now not postponed. He is headed to Boston.

Bill Woodard, the principal of Dos Pueblos High School and the mother or father of a senior there, described the night as magical. “I don’t use that word lightly,” he added.

Goleta is a suburban neighborhood close to Santa Barbara. Mr. Woodard stated the city was typically mistakenly assumed to be uniformly rich and, thus, insulated from the ravages of the pandemic.

“We had families that lost family members,” he stated. “There was economic devastation. That all was swirling as we were planning our prom.”

Initially, he stated, close by colleges had hoped to host on-campus carnivals as a form of substitute. But Dos Pueblos college students wished to do one thing off-campus, to make the occasion “as normal as possible,” he stated.

A connection on the Santa Barbara Historical Museum helped the college rating a reduction on the house, which is commonly a vacation spot wedding ceremony venue. Flowers had been donated, Mr. Woodard stated, then reused on the college’s commencement days later. There was a Shirley Temple bar, karaoke and air hockey.

Ms. Ibarra Simon, the Dos Pueblos senior, stated she and her finest buddy made the silent disco not so silent once they began singing alongside to the Miley Cyrus anthem “Party in the U.S.A.” At one level, she rotated to see an grownup chaperone belting a Snoop Dogg tune.

“I think she was on a sugar rush, if I’m being honest,” she recalled. “Like, ‘Girl, you’re dancing more than me.’”

Sienna Barry, a senior at Petaluma High School and the scholar physique president, stated the concept of getting promenade on the college’s soccer area took some getting used to.

Most years — together with these when Ms. Barry’s older sisters attended the college — the Petaluma promenade meant an evening in San Francisco or Oakland. Groups of scholars would take occasion buses to the Academy of Sciences, motels or different giant venues.

But after a daunting winter coronavirus surge, Ms. Barry stated she and her classmates had been thrilled to have a promenade in any respect — even when they solely had a month to plan it.

“We usually start planning in February,” she stated.

The day of the promenade, Ms. Barry and her finest buddy since kindergarten received prepared collectively earlier than assembly the remainder of the attendees at a neighborhood park for footage. The Neil Diamond hit “Sweet Caroline,” which got here out greater than three a long time earlier than the scholars had been born, had “for some reason” grew to become a form of senior class anthem. At the promenade, everybody sang it collectively.

Because the scholars had both been vaccinated or examined, Ms. Barry stated, they lastly felt comfy sending Snapchat movies, making TikToks and posting to their Instagram tales with abandon.

“It was like a normal gathering, being able to post with all your friends dancing,” she stated. “For the last year and a half, if you go out with your friends you may be low-key embarrassed.”

All the standard drama of an enormous dance — the beefs, the wounded emotions, the tears — pale away.

“Why have drama on the one night you get of senior year?” she stated.

Nearly one-third of the scholar physique at Fowler High School attended promenade this yr, roughly 220 out of the college’s some 800 college students.

“At our school, because it’s so small, we’ve all known each other,” stated Komal Sandhu, a senior and the college’s pupil physique president. “We call it our Redcat family.”

By late March, college students had been taking part in sporting occasions as soon as once more, and so they knew that commencement was on. So promenade appeared inside attain. Finally, pupil leaders received the phrase that they had been hoping for.

“We were like, ‘It’s go time,’” Ms. Sandhu recalled.

After the placement was settled, there was the matter of meals. Caterers would serve teppanyaki to college students seated at a horseshoe of tables across the fringe of the college’s quad.

Invitations had been despatched. Decorations had been ordered.

Music that mirrored the college’s variety — most college students are Hispanic and there’s a important Punjabi inhabitants — packed the dance ground. “Angreji Beat” was a favourite, Ms. Sandhu stated. So was “Cotton Eye Joe.”

Still, for Ms. Sandhu, the most effective half was seeing her classmates gentle up as they walked in. “It had been such a long time since we’d all been together,” she stated. “Seeing everyone dressed up was worth all the stress, all the late nights.”

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