The Winter Informal: A Flop yet a Bop


Gavriel Mulligan

An aerial shot of the vast and underpopulated Pit during the winter informal dance.

Saturday, Jan. 25, the date of the widely-unanticipated school informal dance. While I was aware on some level that informals are consistently less popular than their more glamorous counterparts, prom and homecoming, absolutely nothing could’ve prepared me for how alarmingly barren the Pit would be for this event. As most savvy students could tell you, showing up on time to a school dance is an amateur move that one quickly unlearns after freshman year; keeping this in mind, my friends and I had arrived fashionably late at 9 pm (an hour and a half after the dance was scheduled to begin). However, this calculated retardation of our arrival seemed virtually futile, as by the time we arrived there were only around 25 students besides my friend group present at the event. According to a member of the Student Council, only around 100 students stopped by the dance throughout the night, a laughably tiny fraction of the student body.

The whole event seemed to take place in some fever dream liminal space. Most people crowded to the edges of the dance floor, none willing to shove themselves into the glaringly empty center. A mosh pit, traditionally one of the sweaty crowning jewels of a school dance, would have been impossible to even form on account of the low attendance. Regret was visible on many students’ faces as they openly lamented the “waste” of ten dollars for such a violently underwhelming event. To the credit of our Student Council, the fact that all proceeds from the dance went towards charities for local at-risk youth helped assuage my worries that the experience was all for naught. But damn was it weird. 

Let me begin with this: as the stage manager for the Boulder High theater department, I don’t harbor any resentment for theater kids. However, the ratio of thespians to non-theater students at the dance was alarming. A quick count of the room revealed that theater kids made up the vast majority of the attendees for the event. One hypothesis to explain this imbalance of drama queen energy is that theater kids just have naturally lower social inhibitions and in consequence don’t factor in the popularity of an event before deciding to attend. No shade to those who did attend: y’all are among some of the coolest and most robust individuals ever to grace the halls of Boulder High. It was truly a unique experience to be involved in the formation of a conga line that ended up enveloping and then including almost every person at the dance that evening.  

Gavriel Mulligan
School sweetheart Lane heads up the lengthy conga line in the eerily empty Pit.
Gavriel Mulligan
The tail end of the highly popular conga line at the dance.

While advertising for the event could have been more effective, it wasn’t because students were unaware of the dance that they didn’t attend. Conversation swirled around the dance in the days leading up to it, but the resounding reaction from what I could gauge was simply that students believed it would be a lame experience and felt there were better uses of their Saturday night. The school informal was viewed by upperclassmen as a juvenile prom analog for younger students and by underclassmen as a social faux pas to avoid at all costs. Interestingly, many seniors I spoke with nonetheless had praise for previous school informals, especially the tropical-themed dance in the courtyard that took place my freshman year. The low turnout for the dance cannot be attributed mostly to bad advertising nor low expectations based on past informals. Instead, it stemmed from the perception that the event was going to suck. 

Prom and Homecoming, two of the most iconic events in a high schooler’s career, are almost ubiquitously popular in spite of all the traditional complaints raised against them. These dances’ vices are most commonly enumerated as being the high ticket price and the hassle of the formalities behind them like buying a new suit or dress. The informal seemingly eliminates both these issues with a ticket priced at a fraction of other dances and no pressure for grand gestures or performative beauty. Moreover, the dance was put on as a charity event and all proceeds went towards There With Care to benefit critically ill children and their families in our community. Still, the philanthropic aims seemingly did nothing to affect the turnout for the dance. Beyond that, the school dances have the same essential components: loud music in a dark room perforated by strobes and set with the backdrop of parent and teacher volunteers attempting to blend into the walls. The real reason this school informal was such a flop when it had all the core elements to make it a bop is that you all just lack enthusiasm. 

Enjoyment of a situation is to some degree a personal choice. If you adopt the “too cool for school” mentality and look down on traditional school events and those who attend them, you are creating your own roadblock for enjoyment of what could otherwise be a formative experience of your young life. While for some a dance is the last place they’d like to spend their Saturday night, the unique social opportunity only arises a few times per year. By dismissing the idea right off the bat, you deprive yourself of deciding for yourself if the experience sucks or not. Next time a garbled announcement blares over the PA system proclaiming an upcoming dance or other similar school events, maybe consider the possibility for entertainment that it offers rather than how uncool it is to conform to the system. I promise that though you risk throwing your money at an underwhelming evening, there are 51 other perfectly acceptable Saturday nights of the year to get violently inebriated in your friend’s basement and you will not suffer for this minute loss of one. I strongly encourage you to live a high school experience that reflects the memories you want to make and to boldly strut forth onto that empty dance floor.