Dave Molter

Column Dave Molter

Dave Molter is a freelance writer and Golden Quill and Keystone Press Awards winner. He also is a freelance musician in the Pittsburgh area.

Saved from mariachi

February 25, 2014

Administrators from Peters Township School District recently stopped a dance on school property because of what one board member characterized as “massive twerking” by attendees.

If you’re a parent who eschews social media or any type of communication device other than a landline telephone, here’s a definition of “twerking” provided by Wikipedia: “Twerking is a type of dancing in which an individual dances to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low squatting stance.” If your landline telephone still has a dial, Wikipedia is kind enough to also provide definitions for “thrusting hip movements” and a “low squatting stance.” If that’s not enough, Google “Miley Cyrus.”

School board members had varying responses when contacted by the media about what I like to call “Twerkapalooza.” Perhaps the most unusual response came from William Merrell, who said he had contacted the local Arthur Murray dance studio to see what kinds of dance classes they offered. I assume his purpose was to ensure that students learn to twerk correctly.

I’m kidding, of course. Mr. Merrell no doubt wishes students to learn one of the “nice” dances taught at the Murray studios. The merengue, perhaps, which the studio describes as “considered too scandalous when it was introduced to the United States in 1941.” Or swing dancing, of which in 1938 the “Ave Maria,” a newspaper published by the University of Notre Dame, said: “A degenerate and demoralized musical system is given a disgusting christening as ‘swing’ and turned loose to gnaw away the moral fiber of our young people.”

The Charleston, perhaps? “Any lover of the beautiful will die rather than be associated with the Charleston,” said the vicar of St. Aidan’s, Bristol, England, in 1926. “It is neurotic! It is rotten! It stinks! Phew, open the windows.”

Thank God the president of my own school board was cut from the same cloth.

It was the night of our high school’s 1965 Christmas semi-formal. Vic Maybray Sr.’s small dance combo provided the music. They were a safe choice, the school board figured, because leader Vic was in his mid-50s, and the band members wore matching plaid sportcoats. There would be none of the dreaded Beatles music that was sweeping our small town. But about 15 minutes into the band’s first set, something went terribly wrong.

The bass drum thumped a steady four – bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp – followed by a low blat from the trombone that made it sound like Satan’s Sackbut: bwawwwwwwwww! Then his trumpet minions kicked in. Couples of every stripe – cheerleaders and jocks, nerds and nerdesses, hoodlums and molls – flooded the gymnasium floor and began to gyrate obscenely. The tune was Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’s version of “A Taste of Honey.”

Before “Honey” had dripped its last, the president of the school board made his way to the bandstand and talked agitatedly with Vic, who stood conducting with his left hand while shaking his head several times. Finally, Vic nodded – grudgingly, it seemed – and the president sauntered away. The rest of the band’s set – and, indeed, everything else it played that night – was anchored firmly in the demilitarized zone between foxtrot and cha-cha. Vic, whose daughter had been my classmate since first grade, told me during the break that the head of the school board had instructed, “No more of this crap!”

For this I – and those who would graduate over the next four years – have him to thank for saving us from a debauched future powered by Anglicized mariachi music.

No doubt the students of Peters Township High School will look back at 2014, raise their eyes to heaven and intone, “There but for the grace of God twerk I.”

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