Put A Ring On It

Massachusetts Maritime Academy Ring Dance cadets and dates at the Hynes Convention Center

“The Sheraton Room of the Copley-Plaza Hotel in Boston was the setting for our class Ring Dance – which we hope will become a tradition.” This eager wish echoed from the covers of a dusty copy of a 1950 MMA yearbook… a wish that came true. By 1954 the tradition was established. According to that yearbook, during the dance held at the Sheraton Plaza Hotel, “Admiral Wilson eased any tension at the commencement of the rite with his anecdote about the origin of the ring ceremony. He reminded the Midshipmen that previously there had been no such affair but instead the boys threw each other into the brig. This was discontinued when the Commissioners substituted the somewhat milder and much more desirable Ring Dance.” 

In the 1950’s, each Midshipman and his date walked to a binnacle positioned under a huge class ring. In ’54 the ring was made of carnations and eventually there was one made of paper mâché as a replica of an Academy class ring. The date would place the ring on the cadets finger and seal it with a kiss, signifying that he/she is now married to the sea. They then stepped through the ring and danced until the last couple had completed the ritual. 

In a recent addendum, each cadets date wears the ring around their neck with a ribbon and for the ceremony, dips the ring in “waters from the seven seas” which the same cadets collect from their vast sea adventures or seafaring shipmates. The dipping of the ring signifies a christening of the new bling, a future on or near the water, and sealing their connection with the Academy. Rings have always symbolized unity, wholeness, infinity, and often stand as a visible badge of authority – worn by bishops, kings, officers, rulers and other leaders. At service academies and regimented colleges, the ring is worn by the class holding the leadership and shows who is in command of the regiment of cadets.  

Fast forward and the Ring Dance is now a junior class tradition, taking place in the spring once the rising leadership have been named. This year’s dance was held at the beautiful Hynes Convention center with the male cadets wearing the choker white uniforms, and women cadets dressed a classic merlot colored gown in one of three styles – making them elegant, yet easily identifiable as a unified member of the regiment. This dance is a celebration for the junior class to kick of their senior year with a bang and also to reflect on the memories collected over the past few years.