East Hartford High School readies for senior prom

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Thu., May. 23, 2013
(L-r): East Hartford High School seniors Alyssa Freitas, Brook Jackson, Renzo Orellana, Tashawna Mitchell and Imari Serrano gathered together when EHHS and the Connecticut IB Academy held their proms together on June 1, 2012, at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. File photo by Jessica Ciparelli.
(L-r): East Hartford High School seniors Alyssa Freitas, Brook Jackson, Renzo Orellana, Tashawna Mitchell and Imari Serrano gathered together when EHHS and the Connecticut IB Academy held their proms together on June 1, 2012, at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. File photo by Jessica Ciparelli.

Warning:  This story will bring back memories – good, bad or indifferent. Remember dance imitations of John Travolta from "Saturday Night Fever," discovering that moonwalking wasn’t as easy as Michael Jackson made it seem or, if you are old enough, busting out the hand jive? Yes, we’re talking about senior prom.

Take a minute if you need to conjure up the images from that night, whatever year it was.  See the colors and vibrant decorations, hear the music, feel the excitement and picture that moment all over again.

For the current class of 372 seniors at East Hartford High School, their prom memories will be made Friday, May 31, at the Convention Center in Hartford. The theme is 1920s and the closing song is “Can’t Hold Us,” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

Macklemore was just 7 years old when senior class advisor Christine Lawlor-King attended her senior prom, or “senior reception,” as it was technically called.   

“It was fun,” recalled Lawlor-King, who attended South Windsor High School’s senior reception at La Renaissance. “It was a good night.” Having worked or chaperoned proms for seven years, Lawlor-King said one of the big changes from proms of the past to now is the dancing.

“Back then there was nothing synchronized,” explained Lawlor-King. “Everyone was dancing their own way.” Lawlor-King added that now there are more of these choreographed dances that even get the students who don’t normally dance onto the floor. “They know the steps and can do the steps, and it seems like it’s more and more songs every year now,” said Lawlor-King.

“I think with dancing, it’s definitely different nowadays,” said EHHS senior Hannah Oney. “It’s more like everyone dances together rather than partner dancing.” The group mentality can help ease the anxiety that many generations have had of trying to find a date to the prom.

“People come in big groups - you don’t have to be partnered up,” said Lawlor-King. “It’s not about that anymore.”

To reinforce that point, individual tickets are sold to the prom so students aren’t forced to buy two tickets. Lawlor-King added that this is more freeing for the kids so they can just go and have fun. And fun is the constant theme of prom, no matter what decade you attended.

“I picture my parents’ proms like 'Napoleon Dynomite' proms where they’re just kind of like in a gym or somewhere in the school and they’re all dressed nice but it’s not as serious as it is today,” said senior class president Paul Dineen. “And everybody thinks they needed a date. People still do, but people aren’t as afraid to go alone as they were back then.”

Another evolution of the whole prom experience is in the extensive preparations that students go through now. In order to have ample time to get ready for the prom, seniors will be excused from classes at 11 a.m. on Friday.

Also, a lot more money is spent on dresses, hair, nails and makeup. “There was none of that back in my day,” recalled Lawlor-King.  “You’d get your hair done, but there were no nail salons like there are now.”

Students can spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on dresses, with some even trekking to New York City for their gown. Lawlor-King said shopping for dresses online is also popular – a stark contrast to years before when "on line" was where your dress and other clothes hung in the backyard to dry, not to be purchased. 

In addition to the change in how the students prepare for prom, Lawlor-King has also noticed a shift in how they get to prom. “Limos aren’t as popular now,” said Lawlor-King. “Every year I see less and less limos. Back in my day we were very into the limo aspect of it.”

Despite the changes in music or attire or appearance, the one constant of prom throughout the years is that it’s one of the highlight moments of the year - a night that everyone looks forward to and celebrates.

“This is the last major event before we graduate,” said senior Rafael Quiles. “We get to be with our class and just really enjoy our time.”

“It’s kind of like the symbolism of the end of the year,” added senior Monica Petrella.

So how is the mental image of your prom looking right now? Do you feel the sudden urge to do the cabbage patch or boogie woogie to "The Electric Slide" in your kitchen? It’s okay if you do – really, it is – for the whole point of prom is just to have fun.


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