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Gainesville Middle School students cut a cafeteria rug
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Gainesville Middle School sixth-graders Sydney Lindsey, left, and Alaina Lee dance in a line during the recent sixth-grade dance at the school. - photo by Tom Reed

Remember middle school dances?

The boys and girls separate themselves into groups, rocking from side to side or jumping up and down. A few dedicated dancers stay in the middle of the floor all night, alternating between self-conscious moves and giggling or talking.

That hasn't changed, especially for sixth -graders. On Aug. 17, Gainesville Middle School's Parent Teacher Association held the first of many dances planned for the year. They're trying to revamp the program and get more parents, teachers and students involved.

"Last year, there was a dance for all the grades and then the eighth-grade dance, but this year we have three dances for sixth and seventh grade and four for eighth grade," said PTA president David Basco. "We're trying to boost membership and school spirit. When students are in school, they don't get to meet other kids, and going from class to class can be very controlled."

The first set of dances are intended as "Welcome Back to School" events, and the PTA will host more around Halloween and Valentine's Day. When the two-hour dance started at 5 p.m., only a few girls swayed in the middle of the cafeteria, and others watched from lunchroom tables.

"We thought it would be fun to come because we enjoyed the fifth-grade dance at Enota Elementary last year," said Sara Cook while sitting with a few friends. "It was at night, so they had strobe lights, and the whole fifth grade was there. More people will come soon, but I think a lot of people had dance, soccer or football practice."
Most of the boys jumped around, spinning their arms in circles like windmills, and a few even ran complete circles around the cafeteria. A few students who "had moves" said they learned dance steps by watching music videos on YouTube.

"I don't like dancing, but I like watching others," said Jessica Rucker. "It's funny. Most people don't know how to dance."

As the night progressed, the sixth-graders danced to popular radio hits, which would likely be heard at high school dances and even a few college parties. Everyone filled the dance floor for rap songs, but there was no inappropriate dancing and little mingling between the genders.

The biggest excitement, however, was the arrival of eight boxes of pizza. More than 40 students lined up immediately, bought their slices and then sat to eat, leaving seven girls to spread out across the dance floor. Basco didn't mind, however, he just wants the kids together.

"For whatever reason, the PTA wasn't big in the past couple of years. There was also some kind of problem relating to Hispanic families, and we're really trying to get Hispanic parents involved this year," he said, motioning to signs outside of the cafeteria printed in English and Spanish. "This year, we're going to have fun."

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