LOS ANGELES, Nov. 16, 2006 — -- A popular high school principal in the wealthy enclave of Aliso Viejo -- in California's so-called "O.C." (Orange County) -- has put his foot down on "dirty dancing."
Charles Salter has banned all dances until the kids clean up their act, and now parents and schools from California to Connecticut are cheering.
What moved the head of Aliso Niguel High School to make such a drastic move?
"Freak dancing" or "freakin'," an intimate hip-hop dance style between a boy and a girl, or two girls.
"It's basically when two people are like grinding against each other in a kind of sexual way," Aliso Niguel freshman Kori Roberts says.
The 14-year-old attended the "Jungle Dance" this fall that proved to be the last straw for Salter.
"I saw a girl, she was about 14 or 15 years old," Salter says. "She was bent over, dancing with a young man who must have been a junior and he was gyrating and thrusting on top of her."
The principal had been monitoring school dances for several years and had expressed his concerns to parents about the sexual nature of the dancing. There were dance chaperones and lots of conversation about what was allowed and forbidden.
But even at the school's Winter Formal last January it was impossible to keep the atmosphere below fever pitch inside the dark cavernous hall, pulsating with strobe lights and about 1,200 teenagers.
All across the floor girls thrust their rears into their partner's pelvis to the beat of Missy Elliot's "Let Me Work It."
Young couples were grinding away like gears to the pulse of Sisqo's "How Many Licks."
But in September, an exasperated Salter pulled the switch on the back-to-school dance with its jungle theme.
"I closed the dance down early," Salter says. " I came into my office, it must have been about midnight, and I knew I had to address this."
In the wee hours of the morning, Salter fired off an e-mail to parents and teachers:
"Why do our girls have to have themselves so exposed? Why do they have to have cleavage displayed so overtly and slits high up their thighs and then allow boys to dance right up against them? ... I am not going to allow this to continue to happen. If there is going to be another dance, then you as parents and your children will have to sit down with me to make some huge changes because I cannot and will not have what my staff and I had to deal with today."
What happened next, surprised the principal.
"My parents were sending my e-mail to their friends who were sending it their friends who were sending it to their friends and all of a sudden I was getting e-mails from across the country," Salter recalls.
The principal followed up the e-mail with a video presentation of teens pressing the flesh at the Winter Formal. Parents were shocked.
"It's basically bumping and grinding, touching and holding onto a female's hips, and vice versa; very vulgar," according to Beverly Lee, whose daughter is a junior at Aliso Niguel High School.
While parents and teachers mostly supported the dance moratorium, the students initially balked. With steady diet of music videos featuring sexually expressive dance routines and revealing clothes, the kids don't understand why adults don't understand.
"We don't really know what else to do," says 14-year-old Sara Saldino. "That's basically what we grew up with. In middle school we were already doing that and watching TV and seeing that. It's what we know."
Junior Thomas Pistone agrees: "That's our style of dancing. That how we wanna dance. It's not breaking any laws."
Every generation has dance styles that seem to offend, from the racy moves of the Roaring 20s to the pulsating pelvis of Elvis. In some ways, freak dancing is just the next in a long list of teen fads that offend adult sensibilities.
But Charles Salter begs to differ
"Yes, it might be the only dance they see and think they know, however it is inappropriate in a school setting," the principal says. "And just like you don't do certain things when you go to church? You don't do certain things when you go into court? Well, you don't do certain things when you come to school."
The Aliso Niguel principal appears to have started a tidal wave of dance reform. Montgomery High School students in Santa Rosa, Calif., received a written warning: "Dancing styles that involve intimate touching of the breasts, buttocks or genitals or that simulate sexual activity are not allowed."
At Los Alamitos High School, also in Orange County, chaperones wear "No Freaking" T-shirts. And at Wethersfield High School in Connecticut, students have reportedly launched a "Freeze the Freak" campaign to encourage their peers to find a more respectable way to get their groove on.
Back at Aliso Niguel, a "dance committee" of students, teachers and parents are putting the fiinal touches on a plan for better behavior on the dance floor in hopes of lifting the ban.
Until a defined set of guidelines is in place, principal Salter is standing firm: "There will be no more freak dancing at Aliso Niguel!"