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Mila Koumpilova, Published January 17 2009

Moorhead school officials seek ‘bump and grind’ dance ban

Moorhead school officials and some students have set out to banish provocative moves that have riled up chaperones and better-behaved dancers at school functions.

They’re fighting back with talk of dance cancellations, new anti-“bump and grind” guidelines and, most recently, a video featuring Moorhead’s mascot, the Spud, engaged in some unseemly dance floor behavior for a righteous cause.

At the end of the school day Friday, all Moorhead High classrooms watched the student-produced video, which explains a new set of dance guidelines and has Spud demonstrating proper dance-floor etiquette. Its authors and school officials hope the campaign will cut down on suggestive moves at tonight’s Hawaiian-themed dance at the school.

“The students want to have a good time,” Principal Gene Boyle said. “They want to come to a school dance and not be embarrassed by people dancing inappropriately close to them.”

Boyle says eyebrow-raising dance styles started cropping up at Moorhead High dances two years ago. He’s fielded about a dozen complaints from parents and students. Some scandalized parents have lately balked at volunteering to chaperone, Boyle said he heard from his staff.

Susan Ahmet, one of the students who shot the Spud video, said the moves – grinding to hip-hop tunes, boys taking off their shirts – are catching on: “When freshmen and sophomores come to the dance, they think, ‘If the seniors are dancing that way, we probably should, too.’ ”

The rest of the students regard the moves as funny, immature or just business as usual. But at this fall’s homecoming dance, a freshman was pulled into a dance circle and touched inappropriately, Ahmet said, which all agreed was not OK.

Fargo North High Principal Andy Dahlen says his staff now gives students a dance etiquette talk at the start of each school year.

Sean Safranski, principal at Fargo Catholic Schools Network’s Shanley High School, said last year chaperone suggestions that some couples dance a bit farther apart elicited the occasional smart-alecky comment from students, such as, “Yes, leave room for the Holy Spirit.” But then, students and staff crafted new dance guidelines, including no grinding on the dance floor, which helped.

The new guidelines in Moorhead included input from student council members, board members and staff. “Appropriate dancing is expected,” one of them reads. “Dancing of a lewd nature is prohibited, e.g. ‘bump and grind,’ ‘dirty dancing,’ etc.”

Violators who disregard chaperone warnings face school suspension and a six-week exclusion from school events.

More informally, Boyle tells students, “If your grandparents are sitting there and watching you, would you feel comfortable, and would they feel comfortable?”

The new rules have already caused some grumbling at the high school.

Ahmet and co-producer Samantha Sherman hope their video, a TV production class project, will help. It includes interviews with students and teachers and the Spud demonstration. In the video, the Spud sways in a tight cluster with several students while the words “not appropriate” flash on screen.

“People don’t like being told what to do, and they say dance is a form of expression, so changing people’s minds is always difficult,” Sherman said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529