Matrics dancing to a new tune

2012-02-28 00:00

GREAT joy and excitement have descended upon my sister’s house and the air is thick with anticipation and 20 different types of perfume. There’s no conversation that doesn’t include dress fittings, hair appointments and whether Granny could be persuaded to loan the family jewels.

A wedding you may ask? Not quite, but as good as.

While one of my nieces has been invited to a matric dance, which is excitement enough, her older sister is preparing for her own Cinderella moment. A star-spangled event of such enormity that only the planning of a large white wedding may one day surpass it.

For fear of sounding like an aged aunt, it’s impossible to ignore how things have changed since I had zits and ponytails. Back then, regardless of the occasion — school dance, wedding, Bar Mitzvah — it inevitably involved a disco. A party was not a party without a glitter ball and John Travolta squealing about multiplying chills and electrifying thrills. It also meant squeezing into skin-tight satin stovepipes, teasing up one’s hair and doing the disco shuffle, which, believe me, in those trousers, was about all one could do.

By the time I reached matric and plans were afoot for the much-anticipated dance, the disco era had shuffled out, taking the dodgy fashion and big hair with it. Unfortunately, aside from the resurgence of boob tubes and mini skirts, nothing too scintillating took its place. Corseted gowns, coiffured hairdos and eyelash extensions were the stuff of Hollywood film stars and British royalty, not the average schoolgirl armed with her mother’s heated rollers and R50 to spend on a new outfit. If she was lucky.

Fashion aside, the matric dance themes of that era were a tad lacking in imagination too. I mean who could be expected to enthuse about an underwater theme? An evening spent ducking around dangling cardboard cutouts of fish, sharks and octopuses. Or how about being faced with a giant replica of the Star Ship Enterprise, complete with an assortment of fiendish intergalactic characters, to set a girl’s pulse racing.

Beam me up Scotty, I’ve seen enough!

Far from a glitzy ball, my own matric dance was like something out of the Stone Age — quite literally. Originally rumoured to have been a rock ’n roll party, somewhere along the way the roll got dropped and the rock became the focus. With the Flintstones as a welcoming committee, the school hall, dull and dreary at the best of times, had been given a cave-like makeover. Unfortunately, what the décor lacked in appeal, the waitresses more than made up for. Shimmying around in skimpy leopard-print loin cloths and precious little else, it was hardly surprising that someone was tempted to put one of the papier-mâché clubs to better use and the ball became a brawl.

But, as I say, things have changed, ushering in a glamorous era of timeless evening gowns and gown-less evening straps.

I’ve observed, however, that although having the perfect frock and requisite accessories are of vital importance, how Cinderella and her Prince make their grand entrance at the ball is just as critical.

In my day the choices were limited to your mom’s rusty Mazda or your boyfriend’s muddy motorbike. But not so for today’s dance-goers whose mode of transport is paramount to maintaining the correct image. Limousines, Porches and open-top sports cars are the order of the day, with a horse-drawn carriage going just a wee bit overboard in my opinion. Although there’s no denying it’s preferable to the back of an off-road scrambler.

And as for themes: bopping around in grotty caves or dodging polystyrene fish certainly won’t do. It’s romance all the way with settings such as gay Paris, a winter wonderland or a Hollywood stars night complete with red carpet, strobe lighting and, hang on, was that a John Travolta lookalike?

And on the night I shall be jockeying for position in the school car park along with members of the parent paparazzi, who being of roughly the same vintage, I’m betting still think a party ain’t a party without a glitter ball and Grease Lightening.

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