Katie Yoder didn’t want trouble. She just wanted the right to grind.
Yoder, a junior at Andover High School, organized an alternative winter dance last weekend after students were informed that grinding would be banned at the school’s Sno Dance, held Feb. 23 for grades nine through 12.
Grinding, an aptly named style of dancing in which hip-swiveling girls strike a pose similar to yoga’s “downward facing dog” while boys stand extremely close behind them, has been popular among Twin Cities teens for several years, but not all schools condone it. Neither do all parents — but Yoder’s mother and father, along with other classmates’ parents, helped Katie set up the dance and acted as chaperones.
Teens and dancing have sparked adult fretting since before Romeo courted Juliet. The waltz was once considered risqué, as was the twist a couple of centuries later. Victorians would faint dead away at the sight of twerking, another popular modern dance-floor antic that consists of one move: furious fanny shaking.
In recent weeks, it’s a different kind of shake, the Harlem Shake, that’s caused uproars, even leading to one local school administrator being put on leave after he suspended star hockey players for Harlem-shakin’ it in the cafeteria. Like all dance crazes in the age of YouTube, it was fomented by social media.
“They see things online and have to outdo the other guys,” said Andy Yoder, Katie’s father.
Katie said that she and her junior and senior friends see grinding as a “tradition, the way we know how to dance.” They acted in the spirit of “Footloose,” the classic 1984 film in which a rebel played by Kevin Bacon instigates a high school dance in a town where no dancing is allowed.
“We in fact called our dance ‘Footloose,’ too,” she said.
About 260 students — some of whom had gone to the official school dance — attended the alternative dance, held Saturday at the Refuge Golf Club in Oak Grove. Yoder, a point guard on her school’s girls’ basketball team, is out for the season because of surgery. Organizing the dance gave her something else to focus on, said her father.
Andover Principal Rhonda Dean would not comment on a private party off school grounds, but said the ban was decided upon last year after complaints from chaperones and students. “It’s surprising how many kids aren’t comfortable with it and don’t want to come to dances because it’s hard to watch,” Dean said.
Yoder said she and her friends “see the administration’s side. It just really upsets us juniors and seniors who have had fun for three years and are now being cut off from the opportunity.”
Yoder’s mother, Lisa Yoder, said she did research on how to put on a safe, successful event for teens.
“We talked to Katie about the risks and opportunities on throwing the dance, and said it would be her choice in the context of making adult decisions,” her mother said. “We support her proactively by participating as opposed to saying she can’t do something.”
“There’s definitely been an evolution” in teen dancing, said Andy Yoder. “That’s the situation, and our main concern is that everyone has a good time and gets home safe.”
Neither the Minneapolis or St. Paul school districts have a policy against grinding, but St. Paul schools spokeswoman Toya Stewart-Downey said one principal told her that “we monitor it. He said kids these days dance close, and grinding is super-close. When body parts are touching in inappropriate ways, we say: ‘Get some daylight between you.’ ”
Principal Dean said her concern was “to help kids make good choices, to maintain dignity and respect for themselves and ultimately to make the dance experience inclusive for all kids.”
As for Yoder and her friends, it’s unlikely they’ll host an alternative prom come spring, she said. “We really just wanted to have a dance that was a bridge from the old — what we were used to — to the new rules.”