D.C. Residents Fill the Dance Floor at Senior Prom

More than 200 attend annual event hosted this year at Howard Theatre.

Senior prom
More than 200 older District residents gathered at the 14th annual Senior Prom on Saturday. (all photos Zach Marin/For GW Today)
April 13, 2016

By Kevin Dunleavy

With the Chuck Brown classic “Bustin’ Loose” pumping through the speakers and filling the Howard Theatre with funk, Constance Howard had to get up and dance.

Forget her four hip surgeries. Forget her four-wheeled medical walker. After rolling her way to the dance floor, Ms. Howard grooved to the go-go beat, clutching one of her handlebars and living up to the song’s title.

Ms. Howard was among the more than 200 older District residents who gathered for the 14th annual Senior Prom on Saturday. Organized by the Office of Government and Community Relations, the event connects local seniors with George Washington University students.

This year’s theme was Spring Brunch. After a sumptuous buffet that included cinnamon brown sugar French toast, smoked sausage and collard greens, the music grew louder and the dance floor more lively, even for the risqué, contemporary rap hit “Wobble.”

“I’ve been a dancer since I was a little girl. Line dancing is my game,” said Ms. Howard, 60, who attended for the first time. “I like the music, the food, the excitement, watching other people dancing, everybody having fun.”

Also in attendance were D.C. Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) and Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4).

“I have to tell you, this prom is a lot less awkward than the last prom I went to in high school,” Ms. Nadeau told the crowd.

“It’s my first time at GW senior prom, and it is wonderful,” Ms. Nadeau said. “I’ve always loved spending time with seniors, because they have so much joy in being together in the community. It energizes me.”

Also energized were the dozens of GW students who helped put on the event, including emcee Chelsea Lenhart, a graduate student at the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration.

“In a lot of cases, these are the people who live in and around the Foggy Bottom neighborhood or around our other campuses,” Ms. Lenhart said. “It’s a great opportunity to thank them for being part of our community and for being kind and accepting us into their neighborhood.”

Adding to the allure this year was a change in venue from the usual on-campus ballroom in the Marvin Center. The historic Howard Theater holds a special place in the hearts and minds of many longtime D.C. residents.

For Jeannette Brown, Saturday brought back vivid memories of James Brown singing “Please, Please, Please.”

“I used to stand at the back door so I could get a glimpse of the stars coming out,” Ms. Brown said. “I like the music now. But the songs today don’t tell stories like they did in my day—songs that could make you cry.”

Two who may have had the most fun, and perhaps burned the most calories, were dance partners Richard Crutchfield, 84, and Minnie Taylor, 77.

“I love to dance. She loves it even more than I do,” said Mr. Crutchfield. “We try to hang in there.”

Five years ago, they were named the king and queen of the Senior Prom. The annual awards are presented to those who participate most enthusiastically on the dance floor.

This year’s winners were Evelyn Spencer, 64, and Jermiah Bryant, 59, who celebrated his honor with a moonwalk.

“A little combination of James Brown, Chuck Brown and Otis Redding,” Mr. Bryant said of his dance moves. “This is great—makes me feel young again.”