Second chance deb ball

Students who missed out on their debutante ball because of COVID-19 are being given a second chance to enjoy the experience, thanks to a determined group of local residents. Information sessions will be held today and tomorrow for those interested in making their deb in September. Pictured, Leanne Chester, Andrew Camp and Rhianan Bitar are planning to give senior students the chance to experience the debutante ball they missed on. Photo Liz Bell

Liz Bell

Students who missed out on their debutante ball because of COVID are being given a second chance to enjoy the experience thanks to a determined group of locals.

Parents Rhianan Bitar and Leanne Chester have paired with award-winning dancer Andrew Camp to organise a ‘last chance deb’ style event in Sale and are holding information sessions for senior students and parents today and tomorrow.

Debutante or presentation balls have long been a ritual of Australian senior school life, and while the concept began in a different era it is still an important way of celebrating the end of the senior school year in a manner far removed from everyday social life.

Ms Bitar, whose daughter was in year 11 last year and missed out attending a school deb when COVID restrictions were enforced, said many young people in the area were disappointed at missing the experience.

“Young people, both boys and girls, like the concept of dressing up and doing something formal…I have beautiful memories of my own, and I think it’s a sweet, lovely tradition,” she said.

Ms Bitar said the cancellation of debutante dances had also affected local businesses, including florists and caterers who had lost bookings, with the occasion providing an economic support for the community.

“This is about the students having the chance to celebrate the end of a school year the way others have before them, but it’s also the chance to give back to the community and businesses who have had a difficult year,” she said.

Ms Chester, secretary of the Sale Memorial Hall Youth and Civic Centre, where the ball will be held, said they would apply for a council grant to run the event and help cover incidentals.

She said her daughter had also been looking forward to being a debutante when events were cancelled last year, and was keen to experience it with her friends.

“It’s a rite of passage for young people, and we know from talking to lots of people already that there is strong interest in having some sort of presentation dance,” she said.

Mr Camp, a highly regarded dance instructor who founded the Gippy Rocks festival, said he had even received interest from students as far as Traralgon keen to participate in a debutante event.

“The only requirement is that participants are senior students still at school, and if we get enough interest they might be two events to cater for everyone,” he said.

The information sessions will be today at 5pm at the Sale Memorial Hall, and tomorrow at the same time.

The deb ball will be held on Friday, September 10.