February 1, 2012 at 5:35 pm

The Inexperienced Dancer Attends Semi


The Halloween dance is fun.  Prom is fancy.  The Winter Semiformal is neither.  But the inexperienced dancer is ignorant of these facts, and prepares by consulting her available resources (this reporter recommends Wikipedia or the excessive number of photos that last year’s dancers have uploaded to Facebook).  Despite even the most extensive research, however, important questions inevitably arise an hour before the event: Nylons, or tights? Are these heels too high? and Does this vest look stupid?

After signing in and being scrutinized for symptoms of intoxication or depression by the chaperones, all of whom are wishing they were at home watching the Patriots game, one abandons one’s heavy winter coat in the teacher’s lounge, and enters the dance.  The air in the cafeteria is warm, thick, and throbbing with Katy Perry.  The room has been decorated to sort of resemble a winter wonderland.  Christmas lights are taped up around the walls, and blue and white helium balloons cling to the ceiling.  There are some lunch tables piled, not with refreshments, but with white polyester fluff. The inexperienced dancer stands around like a dork, realizing that most dancers are wearing neither nylons nor tights.  Yes, the heels are high, but they are under the tables now, because dancing in high heels is painful.

The inexperienced dancer does not know how to dance in the popular way, and must learn by observing her fellow dancers.  The trending style is, when one really considers it, economical: while dancing intimately with one’s date, both partners can also easily converse with their other friends.  In any event, grinding eliminates the obligation of making eye contact with one’s partner, which may not be really necessary at all.  The inexperienced dancer wonders: if the unspoken purpose of a school dance is an excuse to hold one’s girlfriend, why not watch a movie in the privacy of one’s home, where one is unlikely to be chastised by one’s Spanish teacher for stealing a kiss?

At some point in the dance, the inexperienced dancer begins to yearn for something she can’t put her finger on.  Maybe it’s romance.  A sequined purse dangling over a date’s shoulder.  A disco ball.  Synchronized twirling skirts.  That guy from Footloose.  Suspenders.  Breakdancing.  Something to drink other than vitamin water.  The painful truth begins to dawn on the (still) inexperienced dancer: she is in her school’s cafeteria on a Saturday night and it’s dark, and the music is too loud, and the slow song starting is just another deplorable country ballad.  She is surrounded by the degenerative culture of her generation.  It has stripped dancing of its elegance, rid music of its swells and nuances, and kicked off its Sunday shoes into a dark corner.  It has unplugged the christmas lights.  It has popped every single helium balloon.

This reporter maintains that a punch bowl would have made all the difference.

Nolan Ellsworth Contributed Reporting.

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