After a three-year hiatus, GDS’ Black Student Union (BSU) hosted its once-annual go-go dance on May 20 with adjustments to comply with COVID precautions. Doors opened to the GDS Black Box at 8 p.m. and most students had arrived by around 8:45. Soon after, the Black Box was filled with students dancing as a DJ blasted music.
GDS’ BSU has traditionally hosted the go-go annually as a celebration of D.C.’s Black culture. In past years, the event has included other schools and featured a go-go band. This year, GDS did not invite other area schools but did allow students to bring one guest from outside of GDS.
“It’s D.C.’s history,” BSU co-head Pilar Holder said of go-go music. “It’s music that my parents grew up listening to.”
“This dance has been happening for a really long time. We were talking to some adults that had gone when they were here,” BSU co-head Drew Cowan told the Bit while he and Holder were setting up in the Black Box. “It was really a great way to unite the schools and get them together.”
“It’s very exciting to have the go-go after three years of not having it,” Holder said. BSU last held the go-go in the spring of 2019. The following year, the dance was scheduled for March 13, 2020, the last day of in-person school before GDS went virtual due to COVID.
Even though it was the same dance in name, this year’s go-go was unlike any previous year’s, given pandemic restraints. “It’s been really difficult, especially with all the COVID restrictions. We’ve had to change plans multiple times,” Cowan said. The BSU initially planned on inviting other schools but was advised not to by Assistant Principal for Student Life Quinn Killy on behalf of the administration.
The go-go was originally scheduled for March but was moved to May due to an uptick in COVID cases. The BSU co-heads told the Bit they couldn’t book the band they had planned due to the schedule change; instead, the dance featured a DJ. “It’s definitely not a normal go-go, but it’s the best we could have and we really thought it would be important to have,” Cowan said.
Cowan said that limiting attendance to GDS students and one guest per person was necessary given GDS’ COVID protocols. Making sure everyone was vaccinated and contact tracing, if needed, “would have been really difficult with other schools,” he said.
Attendance was further lowered by a weak turnout of GDS underclassmen. Cowan told the Bit that of the roughly 150 people who came to the dance, freshmen had the lowest attendance numbers and juniors had the highest. Cowan speculated that the difference had to do with the fact that upperclassmen were here for the planning and anticipation of the go-go in 2020, whereas freshmen and sophomores were not.
“It was definitely difficult to get excited when there were less people there,” junior Noor Ramzy said.
When asked about the turnout, senior Alex Verbesey mentioned that most previous go-go attendees have already graduated. “There’s no junior that’s been to the go-go before who can tell the sophomores that it’s fun and it’s an event they should go to, and there’s no sophomore to tell the freshmen.”
According to Ramzy, GDS students have been “apprehensive” about school dances since the pandemic. “No one there knew what to expect,” she said after the go-go. “So when you don’t know what to expect it’s like, ‘What do I do? Do I go or not go?’”
Despite the setbacks, Holder thought the event was a success. “We had a lot of people show up and weren’t really expecting numbers to show,” she said. “I think we did pretty well for our first go-go in three years.”
According to Verbesey, the dance did not live up to the expectations set in years past when the event saw much better attendance.
“I’m sure it’s not the people running it,” he added. ”Because of COVID and GDS regulations, they couldn’t do much more than they did.”
Cowan called the go-go a “big step forward” for the GDS community post-pandemic. “It’s really important to get back to our normal and find a new normal,” he said.