Teen dance style heats things up

Local dancers say grinding isn't new but outcry against the erotic dancing is.
AUSTINTOWN -- Eyebrows arched and mouth stretched, the girl wears a look that screams: Duh.
"There is no other way to dance," she says, smirking as the throbbing lights of The Mill Club throw red and blue streaks across her piqued expression .
A day later during teen night in New Castle's Vale Maria Manor -- advertised as the Parkstown Dome -- another petite girl throws a similar glance when asked why teens dance as they do. It's an expression that cries: Are you serious?
She doesn't want to be bothered by the audacity of the question. The girl, wiping sweat from her hairline, is tired: For the last minute or so she was on all fours, hips gyrating, booty-shaking, her face twisted in pleasure.
Just having fun: During that recent weekend, the girls, Kim Maine of Canfield and Akiko Bell of New Castle, both reveled in what they consider just having fun -- but what others decry as "freaking" or dirty dancing.
Kim is nearly 20, though, now legal to vote and almost old enough to drink.
Akiko is 14.
Headlines have exploded across the country on the topic of teen-age dancing: "Why freak dancing freaks out schools," and "Banned at schools, the Freak gyrates into teen clubs" are just two of many.
Schools consider grinding -- the preferred term in local lingo -- a growing plague, so much so that in some states, including Wisconsin and Washington, grinding or the music believed to encourage it is banned at some schools' functions.
"You hear those words and you hear the beat, and it gets in kids' heads. That's where you get sexy, risqu & eacute; dancing," says Dana DeLorenzo, 18, of Boardman.
And that's what troubles some adults. "Some kids are not sexually active, but you'd think they were by watching them dance," says Dr. Catherine Baker, a counselor at Total Care in Boardman.
More risqu & eacute;: This is not the twist or the lambada or even Elvis' rotating pelvis. At both The Mill and Parks town, for example, numerous pairs and trios were locked back to chest, thigh to thigh and often butt to groin, swaying to pulsating dance remixes and rap music.
At a local prom, "I saw two guys grinding on each other," says Mark Kelso, known as disc jockey Mark Anthony, president of the Mahoning Valley Disc Jockey Association and a father of two boys. "So I turn to this kid and said, 'Is that normal?' He said, 'Yeah, it turns girls on.' This is a sophomore telling me this."
What adults don't grasp, teens say, is that grinding isn't a recent phenomenon; the only thing new is the outcry.
For some teens, grinding is a way to express their burgeoning sexual curiosity or their youth or their coolness.
It's what you do at a club, because, as 15-year-old Shay Arcuri of New Wilmington, Pa., explains with a roll of the eyes, "You can't exactly do polka at this thing. Polka's stupid anyway."
For others, it's part of an adolescent mating game where the plumage is sequins and slit shirts, and dancing is the way to decipher date-ability.
"If they can dance, it shows they're not shy," says Nick Magliocca, 18, of New Castle. "If they're shy, they're sittin' down."
"And if they respect you, they won't do too many things," adds his friend Tawnya Robinson, 16, of New Castle.
Getting close: The pair, who had just left the Parks town dance floor, says the act of grinding means little; it's just a way to get close and talk over club music's blaring beats. While it helps to find the person you're dancing with attractive, grinding for most teens is not a precursor to sex, they claim.
"The older generation doesn't understand like we do," says Tawnya, a thin blonde decked out in the female club uniform of a sleeveless, navel-grazing shirt and low-slung jeans.
"It's just," Nick begins, looking to Tawnya for the right phrasing. "We grew up this way," she finishes.
The sentiment is echoed by teens and twentysomethings at The Mill, mingling in a crowd five, six, or sometimes seven years older than the kids at Parkstown.
The adult crowd, sweltering in the night's heat, say grinding has gone on forever -- or at least since they were paying $5 to $7 cover charges at teen clubs.
"They did it at sock hops," recalls Jessica Abel, 21, of Canfield. "It's just normal."
Most kids, says Ken Nard, 19, of Poland, "Don't want to wait 'til they're older. They want to be older now."
And the fast track for some is dancing in a manner that to some seems erotic, exotic and exciting.
But what of those usually perched far from the dance floor, shaking their heads? "Those people must be jealous cause they can't dance," says Katie Kirkland, 15, of New Wilmington.
Nongrinders: At Parkstown, the three naysayers are dressed as near clones: baggy T-shirts and pants; one sports a backward visor.
"If you grind and everything, you might be kinda slutty," says Shawn Russo, 16, of New Castle, pointing to a group of pony-tailed, tank-topped girls competing to see who can slink lowest to the floor without falling.
"See those girls over there? Been around the block a few times," he says.
How can he be sure? Guys just know, his friends reply.
One of them, 16-year-old Ryan Fair of New Castle, interrupts for a time check.
It's 10:10 p.m.
Even among the grinding and the vamping and the tank tops and the corner of kids smoking and the rush to grow up, reality hits.
Ryan needs to have the car home by 10:30 p.m.

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