Girls' Show: Friendly Competition or Unhealthy Rivalry?
Kayla Leonard '20
28 January 2019
One of Passaic Valley’s most renowned traditions is the annual Girls’ Show, a prestigious event that will celebrate its 75th anniversary this year. The raising of the green flag in the Griswold Gym in 1941 was just the beginning of a never-before-seen phenomenon with years of rivalries and schoolwide competition to come.
Girls’ Show is the culmination of four months of intense routine rehearsals, including cheerleading, exercise, and dance, to be performed on a Friday night in early March. Each team is led by two “heads,” usually junior and/or senior members, who are responsible for choreographing routines, designing costumes, and coming up with a theme.
While it is a performance for hundreds of family members, students, staff members and Girls’ Show “fans” to enjoy, the show is also a competition between two colors: the “greens” and the “whites.” The colors are generally determined by the town the participant is from: Little Falls is a town of “greens,” Totowa is mostly “whites,” and Woodland Park is divided between the two.
Now, it is common to question: how does dividing the school into two teams for several months not cause severe problems or even school disunity? Almost 40 years ago, it did.
In 1981, Girls’ Show was canceled. The friendly competition turned to an excess of rivalry, and in some cases, violence. Tension between the teams devolved into egging houses, vandalizing property and increased arguing. “The animosity between the greens and the whites was not pretty,” says Girls’ Show Director Mrs. Kathleen Dellanno, whose sister was a participant when the show was abandoned.
Green Cheer Head of 1986 Joanne LaRiccia missed out on the joy of being a Girls’ Show participant in her first three years of high school. However, LaRiccia believes the hiatus definitely eased the tensions between colors because it got rid of generations of “legacy heads,” team leaders who took the competition to a new level, that contributed to the intensity of the show.
“As we pass the stories down through generations, they get embellished and therefore raise the bar on how crazy the competition and taunting can get,” LaRiccia says.
It was as if Girls’ Show got a fresh start after the hiatus, a second chance to restore its friendly competition.
The root of the problem seemed to be a lack of involvement from the Girls’ Show advisors at the time. In a show where teenagers are taking on a big role of responsibility and leadership, adult supervision is mandatory. “Now, advisors are much more involved and can keep things under control. We can actively take part in anything that occurs with the teams, not just what happens in the gym,” says Dellanno.
The return of the show to Passaic Valley brought an overflow of joy to those who wished to be a part of it, as well as those who missed watching the lavish performances every year. The hiatus increased the value of Girls’ Show, along with what it originally stood for, and allowed girls to return to the intended purpose of school pride.
“The excitement could not have been greater for those of us who waited to be a part of it since we were little girls...it was a privilege to pump up the excitement in the school and be the first to revive the traditions and tell those tall tales to those who had no idea what it was all about,” says LaRiccia.
Although this unprecedented cancellation of Girls' Show exposed the flaws of the event and its competitiveness, the harsh rivalry is nonexistent today. The increased supervision provided by the overseers of Girls’ Show and a better understanding by members of what the show stands for upholds the activity as “healthy competition.”
“Each new floor of Girls’ Show built atop the previous year’s show, comes as a direct effect of the healthy competition between the Greens and the Whites,” says Green Chief Kadie Cathcart ‘19.
It is difficult to argue that Girls’ Show is an event of destructive rivalry and tension when girls on opposite colors are best friends and heads show great respect for heads on opposing teams. Even if competitiveness increases during the season, the girls easily return to their strong friendships soon after the show.
“This show is the biggest display of PV pride that our school has," says Ms. Jamie Peters, Girls' Show advisor and White Chief Alumnus. "All of the attention that our show gets from the outside community is because everyone loves our show, no matter what color they are.”
Girls' Show has repeatedly served the higher purpose of Passaic Valley: generating school pride and producing powerful and responsible young leaders of society.
“[The show] has created a strong, confident, and driven, female student body with unparalleled young adult leadership experiences and advanced senses of responsibility in themselves and their teams,” says Cathcart. “These characteristics, along with many others taught by Girls' Show, have changed the overall dynamic of Passaic Valley for the better, and continues to do so each year.”