Seniors turn Japanese - formally

Queen Charlotte College students had the night of their life on Saturday night at the Picton school's senior formal.

The school hall was transformed to reflect this year's theme, the best-selling book Memoirs of a Geisha.

The theme recognised its multi-culturalism and a forthcoming trip to Japan, the school said.

The roof was draped in organza fabric juxtaposed against the outline of a cherry blossom tree and a setting sun painted on a wall.

Unlike last year, there were no grand entrances in fire engines, students choosing instead the more-sedate option of their family car.

As the couples rolled up to the school, strapless long dresses were in style for the girls, with their partners proving colour co-ordinated in matching ties.

Akane Kamiyama, 16, is a Japanese exchange student from Tokyo. Her host mother made her dress, giving it a modern twist on the traditional kimono. The asymmetric style combined a short black dress with a kimono overlay.

Each student was greeted at the school entrance, which had been transformed into a Japanese garden surrounded by hung kanji - a calligraphy scripture bespoke to each student.

Head girl Tamsin Woolf, head boy Leon Bristow, principal Tom Parsons and his wife Rosy Parsons formally met all the students before they moved off to have their photograph taken in front of a Japanese folding screen.

They were led along the red carpet into the hall before sitting down to a sumptuous three-course meal. The feast included sushi, barbecued pork balls and teriyaki marinated beef fillet.

After dinner, Janet's Old Time Band ensured the dance floor was filled. Students had their own dance cards, and stepped out to the foxtrot, gypsy tap, waltz and military two-step.

Courtney King, 17, said the formal had been the hot topic of discussion among the students and the culmination of months of hard work.

The school's Japanese teacher, David Collins, wore a traditional kimono, complete with obi belt and zori shoes - the Japanese equivalent of jandals. "I was as surprised as anybody when they picked the theme. They have done an exceptional job. The formal committee really goes all out each year trying to outdo each other," he said with a laugh.

Principal Tom Parsons said the school believed in giving students a night they would never forget.

"It is a big night from them. We have had these kids since they were 11. Now they are 18, this formal is their first step to embrace the real world.

"Queen Charlotte College prides itself in the maturity of its seniors. The school is about socialisation as well as education. What better way to socialise than a formal setting. With this group of seniors they really deserve it. They are a sterling group of young men and women."