Culture Shock: A Journey Through Cleveland’s Dance History


“It’s a mistake to assume that dances are just now under the spotlight because that is not a true reflection of what’s occurred over the years. It has evolved from drinking being the primary problem, moving to drugs and alcohol, to the current fascination with pills, to an increased behavior concern that involves people touching one or another in ways that are not appropriate, under any circumstances, in any venue. I am not blaming boys exclusively. This is an issue with all genders. It has escalated to the point where there has been a significant drop in [attendance at] the homecoming dance. There has been a number of people who have stepped forward and said, ‘I am not going where I do not feel comfortable or safe.’” –Special Projects Coordinator Jan Watt.


Oct. 1, 1993 – Concerns about drugs and alcohol intensifies during the homecoming dance. An article was published in the Clarion featuring a student kicked out and detained at the dance by Portland Police. The student, Andrew Manning stated, “It never occurred to me that I could get caught as I had seen many intoxicated students in previous years come to dances and not get caught. I was simply carrying on the tradition.”

2002 – Homecoming draws more than 600 students at the World Trade Center downtown. Later that year, the semi-formal drew more than 500 students at the Doubletree hotel. A DJ from ultimate entertainment provided music and music videos on a large screen. These were just two out of the four dances held, and would mark the year as an ultimate success for dances at Cleveland.

Feb. 10, 2007 – Winter semi-formal shutdown early at the Portland Art Museum for inappropriate touching and conduct, as well as heavy alcohol consumption. “That was a time when there was alcohol bottles on the tables and a student fell unconscious from an ecstasy overdose,” remembered Camille Adana, former activities director. The Portland Art Museum makes it clear Cleveland is never allowed to hold a dance at their venue again.

Nov. 10, 2010 – Teachers refuse to chaperone the winter formal dance in response to the new dancing phenomena called “grinding.” The dance was thus cancelled, making Cleveland the first school in the district to take action that year.

2012 – Students warned about the possibility of dance cancellation.

2013 – Winter formal cancelled

2014 – Winter formal shut down due to intoxicated students on the dance floor. One student throws up in the lobby sink, another urinates on a cop car.

2015 – Winter formal cancelled due to reports of sexual assault during the homecoming dance. Vice Principal Darryl Miles explained at the time, “This is worse than just dirty dancing.”

2016 – Leadership class decides to postpone the homecoming dance in order to enforce culture change at Cleveland dances, bringing awareness and seeking solutions to the growing concerns over sexual assault. The plan is for the school to be ready to have a safe and responsible dance by this winter.