Winter Ball 2016: ASB prioritizes social awareness and inclusion


New Sequoia Theater Building, 2211-2235 Broadway, Redwood City, CA

Shayda Dehnow

When this year’s Mountain View High School Winter Ball theme was announced, it was greeted with some confusion. Set to take place on Saturday, January 30th, 2016 at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City, the “Can I Have This Dance?” ball is the first dance in recent MVHS history to pose its theme as a question — perhaps contributing to the resulting disorientation surrounding it. In actuality, however, the Associated Student Body selected this theme to promote inclusivity and alleviate the stress that comes with attending a dance.

The Winter Ball Facebook event page explains the theme as “all about consent and having a fun and comfortable time.” The goal of the theme is to address the pressures that often come with attending a dance — the stigma against going without a date, saying no to an asking, or not wanting to grind, to name a few.

“You don’t have to go with a date, you don’t have to dress in exactly a certain way, and you can go with just your friends,” Leah Lam, junior and ASB Dance Commissioner, said.

Some changes have already been made to include more groups of people; at Homecoming, there were two tattoo artists, a flipbook photobooth, arcade games, and board games.

In addition to being centered around inclusivity and consent, this year’s theme provides a double-entendre: the “CAN I have this dance?” title serves as an agent for ASB to encourage students to bring canned foods to the dance and dispense them in bins for donation to a local food bank.

“It’s really about giving back,” Lam said. “We are having this night just to enjoy ourselves, but it’s also important to remember people who aren’t afforded these kinds of luxuries because they don’t have enough money to even buy food, much less a dance ticket.”

Though Lam has found that the majority of the response to the unique theme has been positive, she acknowledges that there has been some hesitance due to the MVHS tradition of a spirit week to match the Winter Ball theme.

“People weren’t really sure how to dress up for [this year’s theme] but we eventually resolved those issues,” Lam said. “The dress up behind the spirit week is conventional, such as pajama day and winter clothes day, but the activities and the messages behind them will be focused around different aspects of activism.”

The spirit week, coined “Make Change Week,” has another double meaning: there will be social change-themed events, as well as a Pennies for Patients coin drive running all week to raise monetary change for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Spirit days will likely include activities centered around environmentalism, culture, wellness, inclusivity, and social awareness, but specifics are still in the works — and up to some of the clubs on campus.

“The activities portion of this spirit week has been opened to the clubs,” Lam said. “We feel like a lot of the clubs on campus are activist groups that really are fighting for some of these causes.”

Still, some students are concerned about a lack of decorations to match the theme — but historically, MVHS has not been known to decorate most of its dances anyway.

“The theme may not be represented in paper decorations but it could be in the kind of message that we are promoting,” Lam said.

Consistent with the theme of inclusivity and accessibility, ASB shaved five dollars off previous years’ starting ticket prices, making tickets 15 dollars with ASB sticker and 20 dollars without. Lam has also been posting Spanish-translated updates to the Winter Ball Facebook event page to be more inclusive of the Spanish-speaking demographic at MVHS.

“It’s about empathizing with people who speak only Spanish at home,” Lam said. “Spanish is the language they’re comfortable with for social situations, and because a dance is a social situation, it just makes more sense to have that equal opportunity for the announcements and the news to be in both languages.”

Overall, this year’s Winter Ball theme is reflective of ASB’s efforts to bring diversity, awareness, accessibility, and inclusivity to the culture of Mountain View High School. The location of the venue itself, in downtown Redwood City, opens up doors to people without cars or pre-dance plans — the Caltrain Station is just across the street, and the Fox Theatre is located in a safe area with a mix of several affordable and luxurious restaurants nearby.

All attendees are encouraged to make the most of their evening in a way that makes them feel comfortable, secure, and happy — and bringing a few cans of food to give back to the community doesn’t hurt, either.