Pandemic or Not, Proms Are Back

Pandemic or Not, Proms Are Back

Four California excessive colleges. Four Covid-influenced proms. The extra rituals of rising up change, the extra they keep the identical.

By Jill Cowan

Photographs by Maggie Shannon

As in some other 12 months, teenage ladies in California stepped out of salons, solely to take a seat in entrance of mirrors at residence fastidiously rearranging their coifs.

They wore jewel-toned cocktail attire and floor-skimming robes. Some strapped themselves into rhinestone-encrusted heels whereas others, planning for an evening on their ft, caught with Vans or Air Force 1s.

Their dates wore white tuxedos, three-piece fits, corsages. In Fowler, a small metropolis southeast of Fresno, there have been cowboy boots and hats.

Yet not like some other 12 months, there have been custom-made masks to match outfits. There had been silent discos to encourage social distancing, as revelers donned headphones and danced to the beat, fairly actually, of various drummers. Vaccine playing cards or coronavirus exams had been required for entry. In Petaluma, dinner was prepacked sandwiches eaten picnic-style on the soccer discipline earlier than the dancing began on the painted strains.

The 2021 promenade season has proven that American highschool rites of passage are sturdy, versatile, pandemic-proof. Teenage traditions, like youngsters themselves, have a resilience. Somehow, the promenade — that timeworn cliché of rising up — was one thing very important and emotional.

Strict pandemic guidelines meant that the majority of California’s Class of 2021 spent roughly a 12 months studying from residence. As the unfold of the virus has waned in California and across the nation, proms — even these retooled with mask-wearing and different precautions — have served the dual operate for a lot of of celebrating each the tip of highschool and the tip of the worst of the pandemic.

“For so long, I didn’t take advantage of all the moments I had in high school,” mentioned Michelle Ibarra Simon, a senior at Dos Pueblos High School within the Southern California metropolis of Goleta. “Covid helped me see that I was letting time fly and letting every moment slip through my fingers.” Prom, she added, “was probably one of the best moments of my life.”


Encore High School


Jaired Mason, who graduated from Encore High School final 12 months, obtained assist from Caroline Esquivel and her mom.ImageSeniors danced in a limo on their option to promenade.ImageTemperatures had been checked earlier than promenade friends might enter a banquet heart in Upland.

At first, nobody was dancing at Encore High School’s promenade. It was an uncommon sight: Encore is a performing arts faculty and a number of the college students are professionally educated dancers.

“I don’t know,” mentioned Marco J. Gochez, a senior on the faculty. “They were getting shy or weird or uncomfortable.”

Caroline Esquivel, Encore’s senior class president, theorized that maybe her classmates had been anxious after not being collectively in a bunch for thus lengthy. The faculty is in Hesperia, a desert metropolis in San Bernardino County, however the promenade was held at a banquet corridor in Upland.

Soon, after dinner was served, the temper modified.

“It was like a giant mosh pit,” Ms. Esquivel mentioned. “Everyone was so happy, jumping and screaming.”

ImageThe dance ground.ImageThe line for the photobooth.ImageCollege students carried out their dance group’s competitors piece.

During Jennifer Lopez’s “On the Floor,” Ms. Esquivel and different members of her dance group obtained onto the stage and carried out a contest routine of their finery.

For Jaired Mason, who graduated from Encore in 2020, attending this 12 months’s promenade as his greatest good friend’s date helped give him a way of closure he had been lacking due to the pandemic.

Encore hosted a small, restricted promenade of about 30 folks final 12 months, he mentioned, and Mr. Mason’s class graduated over Zoom. He postponed going to the celebrated Boston Conservatory at Berklee to check dance.

The promenade signaled an finish to the uncertainty. “Especially after last night, I’m feeling really good and excited about the future,” he mentioned the day after the dance.

And within the fall, his future is not postponed. He is headed to Boston.

ImageThe line for soda on the bar.ImageCaleb Daniels was topped promenade king.ImageThe photobooth.

Goleta, Calif.

Dos Pueblos High School

ImageTwin sisters Mia and Cami prepare for promenade.ImageDad and mom and siblings take photographs of scholars in promenade attire.ImageElla Molyneaux’s promenade date, Emmett, serving to together with her corsage.

Bill Woodard, the principal of Dos Pueblos High School and the father or mother of a senior there, described the night as magical. “I don’t use that word lightly,” he added.

Goleta is a suburban neighborhood close to Santa Barbara. Mr. Woodard mentioned the city was typically mistakenly assumed to be uniformly rich and, thus, insulated from the ravages of the pandemic.

“We had families that lost family members,” he mentioned. “There was economic devastation. That all was swirling as we were planning our prom.”

Initially, he mentioned, close by colleges had hoped to host on-campus carnivals as a sort of substitute. But Dos Pueblos college students needed to do one thing off-campus, to make the occasion “as normal as possible,” he mentioned.

ImageThe seniors of Dos Pueblos High School earlier than promenade.ImageDeanna Koppenjan and Luke Borders embraced.ImagePhotographs had been taken on the courthouse in Santa Barbara.ImageSeniors are greeted and cheered by college members as they enter promenade.

A connection on the Santa Barbara Historical Museum helped the varsity rating a reduction on the area, which is commonly a vacation spot wedding ceremony venue. Flowers had been donated, Mr. Woodard mentioned, then reused on the faculty’s commencement days later. There was a Shirley Temple bar, karaoke and air hockey.

Ms. Ibarra Simon, the Dos Pueblos senior, mentioned she and her greatest good friend made the silent disco not so silent after they began singing alongside to the Miley Cyrus anthem “Party in the U.S.A.” At one level, she rotated to see an grownup chaperone belting a Snoop Dogg tune.

“I think she was on a sugar rush, if I’m being honest,” she recalled. “Like, ‘Girl, you’re dancing more than me.’”

ImageCollege students enjoying desk soccer, one of many actions organizers put collectively.ImageCollege students walked to the dance ground sporting silent disco headphones.ImageProm was held on the Santa Barbara Historical Museum.

Petaluma, CALIF.

Petaluma High School

ImageSienna Barry preparing for promenade with the assistance of her older sister Sicily.ImageSienna Barry’s promenade date, Casey Pectol, pinning his boutonniere.ImageCollege students ate prepacked meals on the soccer discipline throughout promenade.

Sienna Barry, a senior at Petaluma High School and the scholar physique president, mentioned the concept of getting promenade on the varsity’s soccer discipline took some getting used to.

Most years — together with these when Ms. Barry’s older sisters attended the varsity — the Petaluma promenade meant an evening in San Francisco or Oakland. Groups of scholars would take occasion buses to the Academy of Sciences, resorts or different giant venues.

But after a daunting winter coronavirus surge, Ms. Barry mentioned she and her classmates had been thrilled to have a promenade in any respect — even when they solely had a month to plan it.

“We usually start planning in February,” she mentioned.

The day of the promenade, Ms. Barry and her greatest good friend since kindergarten obtained prepared collectively earlier than assembly the remainder of the attendees at a neighborhood park for photos. The Neil Diamond hit “Sweet Caroline,” which got here out greater than three a long time earlier than the scholars had been born, had “for some reason” grew to become a sort of senior class anthem. At the promenade, everybody sang it collectively.

ImageTaking photographs in Wickersham Park in downtown Petaluma.ImageImageImageThe observe turned dance ground.

Because the scholars had both been vaccinated or examined, Ms. Barry mentioned, they lastly felt comfy sending Snapchat movies, making TikToks and posting to their Instagram tales with abandon.

“It was like a normal gathering, being able to post with all your friends dancing,” she mentioned. “For the last year and a half, if you go out with your friends you may be low-key embarrassed.”

All the standard drama of an enormous dance — the beefs, the wounded emotions, the tears — light away.

“Why have drama on the one night you get of senior year?” she mentioned.

ImagePaul Leoni celebrated his promenade king win.ImageImageImage


Fowler High School

ImageFowler High School college students arrived to campus for promenade.ImageImage

Nearly one-third of the scholar physique at Fowler High School attended promenade this 12 months, roughly 220 out of the varsity’s some 800 college students.

“At our school, because it’s so small, we’ve all known each other,” mentioned Komal Sandhu, a senior and the varsity’s pupil physique president. “We call it our Redcat family.”

By late March, college students had been taking part in sporting occasions as soon as once more, and so they knew that commencement was on. So promenade appeared inside attain. Finally, pupil leaders obtained the phrase they’d been hoping for.

“We were like, ‘It’s go time,’” Ms. Sandhu recalled.

ImageOnce college students had been taking part in sporting occasions once more, they knew that commencement was on.ImageImageImageThe dance ground was a preferred locale.

After the situation was settled, there was the matter of meals. Caterers would serve teppanyaki to college students seated at a horseshoe of tables across the fringe of the varsity’s quad.

Invitations had been despatched. Decorations had been ordered.

Music that mirrored the varsity’s range — most college students are Hispanic and there’s a vital Punjabi inhabitants — packed the dance ground. “Angreji Beat” was a favourite, Ms. Sandhu mentioned. So was “Cotton Eye Joe.”

Still, for Ms. Sandhu, one of the best half was seeing her classmates gentle up as they walked in. “It had been such a long time since we’d all been together,” she mentioned. “Seeing everyone dressed up was worth all the stress, all the late nights.”

ImageImageImageCaterers served teppanyaki to college students seated across the fringe of the varsity’s quad.