The Origins of School Dances


Warped Welcome- Photo Courtesy of Haddy Bilal

Georgia Axiotis, Writer

“The pandemic has made me value dances more,” Eliza Ramikhudoeva, a senior here at Canyon, stated regarding school dances and Covid-19, “Because the happy memories made there are ones that can’t be replicated.”

For years, students across the country wait in anticipation for the day they finally enter into their high school years, the years they get to start thinking of their future, apply for college, join clubs, and participate in staple high school events such as Homecoming and Prom. To many young Americans, these dances are a normal and expected part of High school, but what are school dances? How did they start and why? 

Between Homecoming and Prom, Prom is actually the first to have become an annual phenomenon at schools in North America, and it seems to be the most popular among students. 

 “Prom is more important to the student body because it’s one last chance for everyone to have fun together before the year ends,” Eliza states. 

Yasmine Shmara, another senior at Canyon adds, “…it has more of a significance to schools because more people go, it’s more fancy and more people talk about it.”

The name “Prom” is actually short for “Promenade”, which, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means “…a ceremonious opening of a formal ball consisting of a grand march of all the guests.”  According to, it originated in Universities largely in the Northeastern United States sometime between the mid to late 19th-century. Back then, Prom was meant as a way to promote social etiquette and manners for the university’s graduating classes as they left their studying years and entered into society. As the years went on, Prom became an event not just for graduating college students but for high schoolers, of course mostly those in their Junior and Senior years. 

Although it seems many enjoy Prom for its formality and sentimentality, it is largely enjoyed only by upperclassmen, and some would argue Homecoming is superior for its open doors to the entire student body.

“I did Homecoming only once, in Senior year.” An anonymous senior states, “Homecoming was sooo much fun and I really loved it.” 

In response to which dance she thought was more important, she added, “I would say Homecoming because there are more people and everyone is involved.”

Homecoming actually started slightly more recently than Prom and the exact origin is unknown and debated among different North American universities, but it apparently started sometime in the early 1910s. It was originally meant as a fall celebration of the first football game of the season at universities in the U.S., and according to, it seems that Baylor, Missouri, and Illinois University were the first colleges to start this tradition. Interestingly, Illinois University has had Homecoming game celebrations since around 1910, with the only exceptions being in 1918 when the influenza pandemic canceled these events and in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic forced the celebrations to be held virtually. Since then, Homecoming games and events surrounding them have also spread to high school campuses across America.

Through the years, these dances and others such as winter formals and Canyon High School’s special “Warped Welcome” have become a common piece to high schools in America. With the pandemic shutting down campuses across the world last year, it seems that many realized just how special and important these occasions are for students, with dances being arranged by parents at high schools (including here at Canyon) and even celebrities on YouTube holding virtual proms for students all over the country so they could still get part of their Senior  year experience.   

No matter how they started, no one can argue just how important these dances are to high schoolers nationwide.