I've been in broadcasting for 20 years now, and almost that long ago, I took up the side-gig of event DJing (as many of us do)--because I dig music and I dig people--and it's a great way to incorporate both.

Aside from weddings and reunions, one of my favorite things to DJ are school dances. For the past 2 years, I've had the pleasure of working with the AllSaints Catholic Middle School and one really enthusiastic advisor/teacher there named Doug Fogg.

Mr. Fogg, like all of the teachers he works with, really loves his kids and wants the best for them. He is always going above and beyond to organize fun activities for them, and find ways to help celebrate their milestones. We've worked many a school dance together, but none like the one we had this past weekend.

To backtrack for a moment, we had 4 dances scheduled this year, and had only gotten to do 2 of them when Covid-19 hit and threw all the plans right out the window.

When the call came down to close the schools and move learning online, I watched as Mr. Fogg and his colleagues quickly adapted their in-person classes to virtual classes and helped their students make the transition, too.

It wasn't easy, as there was a learning curve for everyone involved. But they all worked hard to make it happen, and to help their kids thrive in this new way of doing things.

That's why I was so happy when Mr. Fogg reached out and wanted my help to put together a celebration of all the hard work that both the students, teachers and parents  had put into the end of this school year.

He mentioned wanting to hold a "Virtual" Dance. I told him I wanted in, even if I had no idea what that was-- or looked like. I immediately got to work looking at what platforms were available to host multiple kids, while allowing me to share music and speak to them.

The date was set. Ideas for fun activities and ways to make it all happen were tossed about. The plan started to come together: It would be a semi-formal dance, held at home-online. Students were encouraged to decorate their rooms, porches, yards, or whatever, to set the mood. Entire families were encouraged to take part. There was a "Virtual Dance Bingo" game posted online with categories like "Dance to a song from the 80's" and "Participate in a line dance" as some of the options. Teams of teachers would disperse and travel from town to town, dropping of "Dance Goody Bags" for kids to enjoy with snacks and other fun items.

Mr. Fogg would anchor from one spot,  setting up shop at the empty St. John's campus on State Street. I would be on the other end of the anchor, playing songs from my home studio in Bangor. We'd open up a Zoom meeting for the kids to join, with their parents. (We held a couple of dry runs with another teacher, just to make sure the technology worked.) Saturday night came and we crossed our fingers and held our breath as the invites were sent out.

Much to our surprise (because neither of us really knew what to expect--or whether or not any of our best laid plans would actually work out!) kids started to log on!

 

Some students had their pets with them. Some had their parents or younger siblings with them. Some were in their bedrooms which were decorated with lights and streamers and in one case a life-size storm trooper! Some were out on their porches, decks or yards, with the dance being projected on the a big screen for all to see.

There was a lot of dancing, which was fun to watch.

The kids made requests and chatted with each other through the group chat. Their parents popped on to make request and say hello. Teachers would show up and take selfies with the kids, drop off the goody bags, and then hit the road. One teacher had logged in from her phone, and had the dance live-streaming as she made her rounds. We could see the view out of her sunroof the whole time!

Mr. Fogg took the opportunity to capitalize on the school being empty and danced like no one was watching--on top of everyone's desks--even thought we could all see him. He even tried to do The Chicken Dance on the front steps, but his wi-fi wouldn't reach that far!

It was great to see everyone come together and let their cares disappear for a bit amidst laughter, music, dancing and silliness.

It was my first "virtual" dance, but I hope it's not my last. It was a very rewarding event to be a part of, and I am so happy it all went well (even with a couple of technical glitches at the beginning.) Like so many others, I can't wait for a time when we can all be together again in person, but if we can't for a while, at least we know we can party together online!

I applaud Mr. Fogg and the staff at AllSaints for making this happen for their students. I hope it was a cathartic celebration for what will likely be one of the most memorable years of their teaching careers!