Pause dances create safer campus nightlife

Pause dances are a vital part of St. Olaf student life. This classic Saturday night event is St. Olaf’s safer version of a nightclub. The social outlet gives students the opportunity to let loose in a controlled environment.

Pause dances provide a slice of the college experience without as many negative consequences. If students want to drink, they will find a way to do so, even on a campus as dry as St. Olaf’s. But unlike house parties, Pause dances don’t allow drinks inside and overly intoxicated students are stopped at the door. Students who need help can get it on the Pause dance floor, as EMTs are on hand. So no, Pause dances may not be as safe as a night spent studying in the dorms, but if a student wants a night out, the Pause is a safe place to go.

Criticisms surrounding safety at Pause dances began a few years ago. Usually, instances or complaints involved intoxicated students, vomiting and unsafe behavior on the dance floor. But in the past year, the Pause co-coordinators Tanner Block ’17 and Julia Bassett ’17 have made changes to lower these instances and increase the safety of the dances. Not always well received, these changes are necessary to ensure the dances’ safety while still preserving the Pause dance’s image.

Entrance security changed from student-led to professional pat downs. This change occurred because when students led the pat-down lines, they would often let friends in no matter how intoxicated they appeared. The professional security acts as a neutral third party. They are unafraid to reject rowdy or overly intoxicated students. As annoying or embarrassing as the rejection may be, it creates a safer environment for everyone. Also, to improve visibility for Pause security at the dances, the co-coordinators reduced the number of people that can get into the Pause dance at any one time. This allows for easier access to students who are in need of help during the dance.

Furthermore, the co-coordinators created “awkward spaces” during the middle of the dance. Awkward spaces are awkward points in the dance where students stand in the Pause with no music. It is uncomfortable because it is designed to be that way for safety purposes. Lights are turned on and safety codes are checked. It prevents students from dancing for four hours straight, which can lead to dehydration and fainting. As awkward as it may seem, by turning the lights on, students can get a clearer picture of their actions and their dance partners.

Safety comes first, kids. A lot of students think that safety is the reason that Pause dances are happening less frequently. However, Pause dances are a well-loved event and are not in danger of extinction anytime soon. We all want more Pause dances, but less frequent dances are actually a good thing. Pause dances used to be held every few weeks, turning an exciting event into a mundane, regular occurrence.

With so many dances being held throughout the school year, attendance had decreased, losing profit for both the organization hosting the dance as well as the Pause Committee. Fewer dances, on the other hand, mean that each dance gains priority over other weekly events. But it also means other events can be held in the Pause. Recently, organizations have been looking at Pause dances’ high budgets and deciding to host other events like After Dark Committee’s glow in the dark volleyball. As fun as Pause dances are, other activities mean more variety for Friday and Saturday evenings.

Luckily, Pause dances aren’t being phased out. They’re necessary for any inkling of night life in a tiny town like Northfield. They provide a safe space for “play hard” after a long week of “work hard” and a moment to pause during our hectic lives.

Kailey Favaro ’20 ( is from Crystal Lake, Ill. She majors in English.