Allison is a high-school media creator who happens to be an unapologetic feminist, outspoken storyteller, opportunistic photographer, and devoted New York...
The contrasts between the 2020 and 2021 pep rallies
I joked that this year’s spirit week felt like NBC’s fictional “The Bad Place.”* I watched an empty set of bleachers stare down the few dancers, each separated into their own blue-tape boxes, as they performed for a stale-aired gym. A grand total of four people watched — three video students and a teacher grading tests.
Any other year, this event would be performed live before over 1,400 students and staff, complete with the clamor of cheers, screams, and chants from all sides of the stage. Any other year, the rumble of shoes hitting the bleachers would motivate the dancers. And really any other year, the audience would erupt with applause as the dances came to an end.
This year, however, I watched in a sort of disbelief as last year’s YouTube sensations attempted to emulate the once-loud energy in a silent gym, where the noises echoed aimlessly. The 5 p.m. sun beat down in the middle of the court, blinding the videographers of the few subjects before them, and draining all emotion. Any other year, the 10 a.m. lighting would have glowed softly around the dancers, rather than forming patches of harsh highlights and shadows.
Luckily, a bit of “movie magic” brought the environment to life: Communications senior Adam Goldstick, with some help from communications sophomore Lexi Critchett and me, composed the videos. The expansive space did allow us to take on the dances in a new way, unachievable when students were packed shoulder to shoulder. Six cameras, multiple takes, and a variety of angles covering the gym allowed for a MTV music-video style shoot, cutting across the space for the duration of the three to six minute compilations. To view the final videos, go to Goldstick’s YouTube channel here.
The Student Audience
Students viewed the annual pep rally through YouTube Live during their first period classes. Perhaps it was the fear of making a scene in a quiet classroom, or perhaps it was the lack of hundreds of students by their sides, but the half-full classroom watched silently as the family feud theme song blasted through the static smartboard speakers. Reclined in their seats — at least three feet apart, of course — seniors watched as their very last pep rally was screened on the smart boards at the front of the classroom.
Silent. Only passing whispers and subtle nods. Besides, what was there to discuss? Last year, the gym shook. The vibrant audience screamed and applauded in accord, a single consistent energy traveling through the bleachers and spilling onto the stage. It was not uncommon to see a teacher walk in with noise-canceling headphones, in fear that the sheer volume could inflict damage on their hearing. I miss it.
The eeriest part of it all was recording the pep rally. It was shot in four different takes, one for each possible winner, in a silent field, after school, on an empty campus. Something about knowing that this was the moment the seniors looked forward to, the one they had put their four years of practice into to finally win, and that it was announced by the two SGA presidents, surrounded only by a plain of grass and a tripod, sat funny with me. Although it’s far from the fictional “Bad Place,” I couldn’t help but think about the moments that brought us to this point, the points in which our spirit was broken. Rushing the gym floor is a right of passage for a senior, like one giant class group hug, yet Chris and Trace sat there, alone. They cheered into the unbroken silence surrounding them.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was quite the opposite of the “Bad Place.” I had the incredible privilege of watching the undefeated Dreyfoos spirit take part in our annual tradition, even if the student body was separated by gaps of dead air. I watched students attend class in neon jazzercise gear, parade around with the spirit stick, and cheer on their class. Perhaps that is the most telling of our spirit, that although the environment was dramatically different, students still had their week to take part in the traditions that they treasure as part of their school’s identity.
That being said,
TWO OH — TWO TWO!
*The imaginary world from the NBC comedy “The Good Place.” A place where everything appears normal at first glance, but through a closer lens, is actually an undesirable reality where nothing is inherently “good.” The Bad Place also stands as a fictitious embodiment of hell, in which people believe they are in “The Good Place,” but, in fact, are not.