Students and faculty work together to bring Turnabout Dance to life

Alex Kim, Staff Writer

On March 4th, DePaul Prep College Prep continued its tradition of dances with this year’s “Fire and Ice” themed Turnabout. While faculty and students focused on the dance, the majority may not have realized what it took to produce an outcome that was both fun and safe for everyone involved. 

Christopher Petersen, the Dean of Student Activities and Student Life at DePaul Prep College Prep, is a leader when it comes to planning big events like the Turnabout. He’s been at DePaul Prep Prep for five years, and describes challenges he has faced with DePaul Prep’s dances, from an increase in the student body to COVID-19. 

“Our dances have had a lot of roadblocks and growth over the years. When I started 5 years ago we had 500 kids, now we have over 1000. We’ve gone from smaller dances to large dances. We’ve gone from having dances to not having dances with COVID; we’ve had to do a lot of adjustments for a lot of things.”

The process for planning the Turnabout started right after Christmas break. Petersen, as well as Desiree Dollak and Britt Parker, spent many hours together as a team to plan for the dance. Parker explains that managing their time well and balancing Turnabout planning with other responsibilities was crucial. 

“We would definitely set aside time and be like ‘we need to talk about this’. We’d put meetings specifically on our calendars to say ‘we need to block off at least an hour to work through this today’. We do set up very specific meeting times with just the three of us”

Dollak is the Assistant Dean of Student Activities and Student Life, and Parker is the World Language Department Chair at DePaul Prep College Prep. Parker, who has had previous experience managing DePaul Prep’s student life, says that the connection between the trio was strong. Without their collaboration, the Turnabout wouldn’t have been possible to plan, and there wouldn’t have been a dance. 

Something that helped Petersen tremendously was having five years of experience under his belt. This made knowing where to start a little bit easier. This is not meant to say that this process is a walk in the park, however, as he describes that there are still many important details to think about. 

“You have to think about ordering and making sure you have the tickets for the coat check, you have to make sure that you have garbage bags for all the garbage, you have to make sure you have enough tables, there’s just a lot of little logistics in the planning that we’ve learned over time we’ve had to make sure we’re on top of. We have a very comprehensive list of [things] like “Here’s what we need to do, here’s what we need to order, here’s like our ‘day of’ events.”

Petersen says that another extensive part of planning this dance was reviewing the new student body, and comparing how much it grew from last school year. With DePaul Prep growing in size every year, he makes sure he focuses on safety and fun in a way that can properly support a large number of students. 

Parker agrees that factoring in the number of students is a big priority when it comes to these dances. Working alongside Petersen for three years, she explains that planning for dances is not what it used to be like. 

“You can’t run a dance like we used to when we’ve had 500 kids in the building. Now we’re double that. We’ve had to adjust and change as needed. That’s one of the things that we’ve done well together is adapt with our school and our students and then each other”

Petersen says that having experience with managing smaller dances has been helpful, as he has been able to “grow into these dances”, and learn from mistakes in past dances in order to improve future ones. Making sure you consistently improve, though, can be a difficult task to handle, and he mentions that Student Government was a huge help with organizing the Turnabout. 

He, Parker, and Dollak moderate Student Government, a group of student leaders that he says “sets the tone”. To elaborate, the Student Government was responsible for setting the Fire and Ice theme for this year. Along with Petersen, John Ceravolo, one of the leaders of Student Government and the Student Vice President at DePaul Prep College Prep, says that Student Government first starts with brainstorming themes (where all ideas are open). Eventually, they narrow it down to three themes after a voting session, and then they put these three themes into a poll. This poll was sent out to the student body where any student could voice their opinion for the theme they wanted the most. 

Ceravolo also speaks about Student Government’s role of setting up the Turnabout, being responsible for tasks such as decorating and getting the music set up. 

“All of Student Government worked together to plan the dance, figure out the decorations, the playlist… the student voice makes it [dances] better”

Petersen also mentions that the student voice was something he made sure was incorporated in the weeks leading up to the dance. 

“We really want the student body to have a voice in the dance so that they feel that they’re a part of it from the get go, and then they’re excited to go” 

Once the theme was set, the focus turned to decorations, booking a DJ, booking a photography company, booking a lighting crew, and buying food and drinks. These tasks were extremely important to the dance’s success, but understandably, Petersen says that setting up ticket sales was number one on the to-do list. 

“The biggest time consuming constraint on every dance is ticket sales. Students always wait ‘till the very very end, and as we’re getting larger and larger, there’s more logistics in management of that.”

The app “MySchoolDance” is how students are able to purchase their tickets for DePaul Prep’s big events. Petersen says he was consistently reminding students to buy tickets, solving any issues involving the app and online agreements, and was sending emails to parents and families. Acknowledging these problems, he made sure to set the deadline for ticket sales earlier than usual so that he could make sure everything was ready to go come dance time. 

Lastly, the final step of planning the dance was recruiting chaperones, moving around and adjusting furniture at the Gordon Tech building, making sure all the right equipment was set up, and setting up the decorations. Parker notes that the time at Gordon setting up for the dance has many steps to it, and that it can be labor-intensive.

“Decorating, moving the entire [cafeteria] around, making sure we have everything clean and ready to go for kids to come in… a lot of the actual setup behind the scenes is something that the general student body doesn’t realize.”

She also mentions that having the snow day on March 3rd was very fortunate. She says that there was a group of Student Government kids that were supposed to stay after school Friday, but with the day off, she was able to pull those kids in at 9 am that morning. This allowed the last twenty-four hours up until the dance to feel less “rushed”. 

Soon enough, everything was set up and ready for the dance. After going through a month and a half of planning for this dance, Parker looks at the main goal that she faithfully stuck by during the entire time. 

“Our goal with every single dance is just that the kids have fun and are safe. That’s our biggest priority. We provide an event that’s fun for students, that they look forward to. These dances are tradition at DePaul Prep now and we wanna make sure that kids are recognizing that and having fun and are looking forward to them.”

Ceravolo, when being asked his personal goal he wanted to accomplish with the dance, is in line with Parker’s; he wanted to make sure that he could do what he could to make the dance enjoyable. 

“The main goal was to have fun. Is there a better answer than that?”

As for Petersen, he wanted to make sure students had a memory that they could look back on after graduation. 

“In high school, you only get nine to ten dances”, he said, “and I want this dance to be looked back on in a positive way.”