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Senior Prom turns back the clock for dance aficionados

March 20, 2005

KALAMAZOO--Area residents who came of age in the 1940s will share their enthusiasm for dances of that era during Western Michigan University's 17th annual Senior Prom from 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, March 30, in the East Ballroom of the Bernhard Center on the main campus in Kalamazoo.

The semi-formal event transforms the traditional senior prom into a fun-filled evening that turns back the clock by bringing hundreds of senior citizens together with WMU students, faculty and staff for a night of Big Band music and swing dancing.

Students typically prepare for the prom by teaming up with senior citizen tutors in mid-March to learn the fox trot, waltz, Lindy and other dance steps popular in the 1940s. The seniors also are able to brief the novice swing dancers on the hairstyles and fashions of the period.

The theme for the 2005 event is "Classic Hollywood: A Stroll Down the Red Carpet." Admission is free, and those who arrive early will be able to "warm up" by participating in Early-Bird Bingo from 5 to 7 p.m.

In keeping with previous years, refreshments, photo keepsakes, dance contests and prizes also will enliven the evening. Music will be provided by the Phoenix Big Band, a 15-piece ensemble from Kalamazoo that has been providing music for the prom since the event's inception.

The Senior Prom began in 1989 as a way for older WMU alumni and area residents to share an evening of fun and reminiscing with current students. The event gradually grew in popularity and last year, attracted some 450 senior citizens and members of the University community.

Early-bird activities were introduced in 1993 to accommodate the many seniors who prefer to arrive before the dancing starts and spend their entire evening on campus.

This year's prom is being coordinated by the Draper and Siedschlag Residence halls with assistance from a half-dozen committees and scores of volunteers. Area businesses are again donating prizes.

"Student leaders who live on and off campus have been helping plan this year's event," says Emilee Frederick, a sophomore from St. Clair Shores, Mich., majoring in marketing who is programming chairperson for Draper/Siedschlag halls and the student co-coordinator for the prom. "I'm learning a lot and have been having a lot of fun."

"Everyone involved in putting on the 2005 prom is tremendously excited," adds Meghann Meeusen, a senior from Romeo, Mich., majoring in English and elementary education and Frederick's coordination partner. "The Senior Prom shines as a truly classy event where students and seniors can come together to enjoy each other's company and learn from one another."

Financial assistance for the prom is being provided by several WMU organizations, including the Residence Life Office, the Residence Hall Association, Auxiliary Enterprises and various residence hall councils.

To get the word out about the event, organizers rely on mail invitations, announcements at area senior citizen centers, and newspaper advertisements and stories. A personal invitation is not necessary to attend.

For more information, contact Chris Sligh, director of Draper/Siedschlag halls, at (269) 387-4790 or contact Sena LaPean at <lapeans@groupwise.wmich.edu> or (269) 387-4581.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 269 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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