Summer is in full swing, and here in the Midwest, that means SO many things:
Drinks on patios.
As much time in/near water as you can manage.
And street dances.
For the uninitiated, a street dance is exactly what you think it is. (I’m inclined to believe that the street dance is a Midwestern small-town phenomenon, but perhaps it is more widespread than I give it credit for.) An average small-town street dance will take place on the Saturday night of said small town’s annual summer celebration. Every small Midwestern town has an annual summer celebration, always titled with a noun followed by “Days.” Honey Days. Buffalo Days. Family Fun Days. And for the less creative among us (I’m looking at you, home town), just the name of the town followed by “Days:” Arlington Days.
A portion of the main street of the town is shut down for the evening, and revelers are corralled into a small enclosure (typically created with wooden barricades and that neon plastic fencing stuff) in which a famous-in-the-surrounding-area local band is playing. Sometimes there’s a cover charge, sometimes there’s not. The only thing available to drink is overpriced light beer, and there is always a fistfight or two. And someone will inevitably spill their beer on you.
I may not strike you as a street dance kind of gal, and you would be correct. I gave street dances an honest shot when I was in high school, mostly because what else is a high school teenager going to do on a Saturday night in the middle of nowhere? Plus, that’s inevitably where my friends would be. Street dances are just what you did as soon as you (or one of your friends) had a driver’s license.
An introvert by nature, attending street dances always made me a little uneasy. You must understand that a small town street dance is not attended only by the citizens of that town, oh no. Any given street dance will attract revelers from all the surrounding small towns, as they all must coordinate their calendars to ensure that their town celebrations fall on different weekends. Therefore, when you stepped into a street dance, you would be confronted with dozens of people you didn’t know, many of whom were drunk and thus thought themselves to be top-notch conversationalists who must speak with absolutely everyone on the premises.
It wasn’t just the strangers that provided me with many uncomfortable moments. As a typical high school nerd, partygoers who never spoke to me at school greeted me with drunken surprise: “Calla? At a STREET DANCE?” Street dances were hotbeds of underage alcohol consumption, and upon realizing that I (too terrified of the unknown consequences of underage drinking to risk it), was sober, lost interest in my presence.
My prime street dancing days were the summers of 2004 – 2006: the summers after my junior and senior years of high school, and the summer after my freshman year of college. Too young to legally drink, but old enough to drive and to have part-time jobs to pay the cover charge. I attended street dances sporadically until approximately the summer of 2010, which is the last documented evidence of me at a street dance:
|It is a fact that I went to the 2010 Arlington street dance with my parents, and it is also a fact that I|
went home earlier than they did. By HOURS.
We may have spent more time getting ready for said street dances than actually at the street dance itself. This was the mid-2000s, and we had our street dance uniform DOWN. The perfect small town teenage girl street dance attire consisted of…
a sequined and/or shiny tank top (likely purchased at Vanity or Maurices)
the most expensive jeans you had (preferably pre-ripped, and light wash – obviously)
sparkly flip flops (bonus points if they had a kitten heel)
clear lip gloss
Also acceptable were super short denim skirts (I was only brave enough for this one time, and it was a skirt that my friend Bob made for me) and polo shirts with the teeny embroidered animal of your choice (an Abercrombie and Fitch moose was the most desirable, followed by the Hollister seagull). When it came to polos, brands ruled the day.
|This picture was meant to show Rachel's and my denim skirts, but you'll|
mostly have to pretend you can see them. Instead, check out her sequined and
my shiny tank tops. Two thumbs up for street dance attire 2006!
You could never wear the same street dance outfit to two street dances in one summer, as you saw the same people at every single one. It was imperative for you to save your absolute best street dance apparel for the street dance in your home town: that’s when you brought your a-game. My friend Meagan and I would usually go shopping for a totally new outfit in preparation for the Arlington street dance, and we would spend hours perfecting our hair and makeup. Meagan was the queen of the street dance, and she taught me everything I knew.
I attended so many South Dakota street dances those three summers. Street dance season ran from mid-July to early-August, and I am reasonably certain we went to one nearly every weekend. Bryant, Lake Preston, Castlewood, Bruce… you name the small town, and we were probably there.
I hadn’t thought of street dances in years: that is, until I found myself at a street dance (masquerading as a block party) in Luverne just this past weekend. This event didn’t have the tell-tale signs of a small-town street dance, so I didn’t immediately peg it as such. No shiny tank-tops. No silver eyeshadow. We were drinking craft beer from the local brewery, and craft beer is NEVER a thing at street dances. The band was even semi-famous (the Suburbs). And… it was on a Friday. No street dance strays from its Saturday station – not ever. I was having fun: block parties are the grown-up version of street dances, and I am a full-fledged block party supporter. However, as the night wore on, my precious block party devolved into a street dance. It didn’t occur to me that this had happened until I was drunkenly mistaken by a woman with a shrill laugh and a bright red tongue for one of her high school best friends. As I stood there, stammering that I didn’t remember the occasion upon which she was elaborating (how “we” were drunk one night and something unintelligible about a dog), my loving husband James was just letting it happen because he “thought it was hilarious.” And just like that, I was an awkward teenager out of my element once again.
Don’t get me wrong: I did have fun at the street dances of yore. I loved getting dressed up and hanging out on beautiful summer nights with my friends. What I didn’t love were the clumsy drunks and the wandering hands of entitled out-of-town teenage boys and the deafening roar of a small town celebrating with beer and bands. Basically, I was a crotchety old lady at sixteen.
At thirty, I am still a crotchety old lady. The only difference now is that I don’t go to street dances (unless I get tricked into them when I stay too long at a block party). But I do remember my street dance days (mostly) fondly: those were some of the last carefree summers of my life, and I got to spend my time doing basically whatever I wanted. No bills, no career, no nothing. The only things on my plate were my jobs at the church camp and the Dairy Mart, and the rest of my calendar revolved around what I was doing with my friends. Those days are long gone, but I will never forget that freedom and those priceless South Dakota summers.
|Arlington street dance, 2006.|