The one thing we thought would never go away, would never change, was the school dance. Prom, in particular, is one of the most significant events of a high school student’s career, a rite of passage that culminates their four years of hard work.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 created a problem we never imagined; students could no longer be together in the same place with their peers. COVID-19 set off a ripple in schools that affected not only academic learning but social and emotional development (SEL) as well. Developing relationships during adolescent years lays the foundation for future relationship success as students move to college and/or career.

If you follow school dances at all, which I assume you do being that you are reading this article, you might know that when it was clear that in-person school events would not be happening at the end of 2020, many organizations and groups began organizing virtual proms. Teen Vogue, MTV, various radio stations, social media platforms, schools, and even individual students worked to create meaningful experiences that connected friends from a distance and celebrated the accomplishments of the year. As the leader in online school-dance management platforms, My School Dance also sought to determine how to provide a prom experience to our schools and students. We decided to provide a unique virtual prom experience, which we called Virtual Prom Live, where we were able to simulate the best experience possible for students whose proms were canceled.

I wanted to share our experience in a 2-part blog series called Planning Your Virtual Dances. In this post, I will highlight what a virtual dance or virtual prom is, and what the benefits of having a virtual school event of any kind are. In the next post, I will share how to plan a virtual dance or event for your students.

What is a Virtual Dance or Virtual Prom?

In this post, I am going to refer mostly to our specific initiative, Virtual Prom Live, but this can be applied to most virtual dances and some virtual school events.

The main features of a virtual school dance are fairly consistent across the board:

  • Live talent, typically a DJ or maybe a band, playing popular music for 1-3 hours
  • A platform that allows students to view the entertainment and interact with other attendees
  • Contests, giveaways, and other ways to get students to interact with each other
  • Moderators who act as chaperones for the dance to ensure all students are respected

Optional add-ins for engagement and positivity include:

  • Influencer appearances
  • Discounts for items such as dress rentals, tux rentals, shoes, flowers, and food
  • Options for video communication between students (this piece is extremely challenging if you are organizing a virtual dance for students not in the same school)
  • Social media engagement with students before, during, and after the event

Virtual Prom Live hosted four different proms, each focused on a specific U.S. time zone. We gathered students from schools around the country into one place where we streamed live DJ talent, featured over 25 influencers, and provided giveaways from companies such as Enso Rings, Crocs, Charlotte’s Closet, and Door Dash. Students had the ability to chat in a moderated section with kids from around the U.S. and Canada and were encouraged to form group video chats either with friends, schools, or others in the event. We had specific vendors who provided discounts on tuxes (Friar Tux, The Black Tux) and dresses (Charlotte’s Closet), which many students wore, took traditional prom photos, and had dinners put together by family.

Benefits of a Virtual School Dance

The most important thing for Virtual Prom Live was that we simulated as much as possible a true prom experience. We know that a virtual school dance will never replace in-person interactions, but our hope is that we were able to provide some semblance of excitement for students who were stuck inside for weeks.

Some of the benefits of virtual dances are:

  • Shows students you care – Overnight the lives of your students completely changed. They were torn away from friends, teachers, classrooms, and end-of-year activities. Even though a virtual school dance will not replace the real thing, it is a step in the right direction to show your students that you care about their wellbeing, their social and emotional development, and their desire for celebration.
  • Gives students something to do – Let’s be honest, students are BORED. TikTok has had over 2 BILLION downloads, and there is only so much Netflix that can be watched. To prevent your students from getting bored, which can sometimes lead to not-so-great things, give them something to look forward to like prom night. Picking out a dress, getting ready, creating excitement with friends are all positive things students can focus their energy on outside of schoolwork.
  • Offers a safe space for certain students – Interestingly, from our experience with Virtual Prom Live, we noticed that many students thrived in a virtual environment who would not normally thrive in an in-person school dance. Just like how every person learns differently, I also believe that every person socializes differently. Some feel more comfortable being who they truly are behind a screen. Even when in-person dances begin again, there might be something to be said for having the option of a virtual pop-in for those students who might not otherwise attend or be as engaged in a dance.
  • Helps support local businesses – The events industry has struggled more during COVID-19 shutdowns than most and continues to struggle as at this moment, many states are still not allowing gatherings for more than 50 people. By organizing a virtual prom or dance, you can help provide income during this challenging time to local businesses like dress/tux shops, florists, DJs, and more.

Again, I would never say that a virtual school dance could replace an in-person one, they are just not the same. However, I do think there are benefits to having a virtual option over no option, and I also believe there might be a need in the future for hybrid school dances both online and offline. In the next blog post, I will give you some guidance on how exactly you can begin to plan a virtual dance for your school or organization. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact us at hello@myschooldance.com or hello@virtualprom.live.

Happy Dancing!

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