The annual Bates College 80s night is a time when every student comes together to congregate in the library arcade for a night of neon colors, rock music, and all around rowdiness. I arrived at the dance around 11:30 PM and the dance floor was already packed. The weather was in the mid-60s, but amidst the crowd of people, it felt like walking on the sun.
The Bates dances are a place where every student, no matter their class year, gender, sports team, or club affiliation comes to dance, sing, and make utter fools of themselves with reckless abandon. The best part is, nobody gives their actions a second thought.
Between the hours of 11:30 and 2 AM, I won’t deny seeing some shocking things in the spirit of the 1980s. Tight, bright skirts with all too revealing hemlines and shirts buttoned down to unspeakable lows only scratched the surface of the promiscuity of the atmosphere.
It is a widely known legend that nothing goes unnoticed on 80s night. The library arcade, packed to the brim with students, seems like a mile wide, when in reality it is probably less than 100 square feet. So why do we let our inhibitions go out the window without a second thought?
I asked a few junior girls what they thought: “There is something about being in an 80’s costume,” they said, “it wouldn’t be the same atmosphere otherwise. There is a tone of absurdity that makes everyone feel entitled to a kind of free for all.” Maybe it is the ridiculousness of the whole experience that encourages us to step outside of our comfort zones. We all buy into the idea of letting down our protective walls for one night that boosts morale and puts people in a “try anything” sort of mood.
Maybe it is the costume idea itself, the idea of masking one’s identity that does the trick. Once I pulled on my red Chicago Bulls jersey and red short shorts, I became an 80’s basketball player, I wasn’t myself anymore, so I could do whatever I wanted without it being a reflection of myself—and everyone is doing it! “Everyone in a crowd acts differently than they would if they were alone, so if I look over and see people making out, I’m like okay it’s cool to make out here!”
While all these aspects of the 80s dance seem great, there are definitely downsides. Dances have a higher EMS rate than any normal Saturday night. Between the costumes, the group mentality, and of course the alcohol, the 80s dance takes on the role of one of the craziest nights of the year. How can we learn to balance the comic absurdity and sheer delight of the dance while still being safe? Enough students have accomplished this task so that nights like these are still endorsed by administration, so we can continue to dance the night away to live music in an all-inclusive and judgment free zone. So let us work together to keep the dance culture alive and well on campus.