Warrior Words: Dancing

With the holidays approaching like the black hand of death, high school seniors across the nation will practice what I like to call The College Waltz, or the Caltz. To dance the Caltz, you simply need a family dinner full of relatives with vague knowledge of your college application process. It goes like this:

Relative: So, I heard you’re applying to college.

You: Yes, that appears to be the case.

Relative: You know, when I was applying to college, I remember …

Thus follows a five- to 10-minute monologue of unmemorable rambling, punctuated with statements like, “When you look back, you’ll laugh about how much you worried about it!” or “You really should apply to ________, I think you’d like it there.”

Your job in this perilous tango is to smile in the right places, give affirmative answers, nod vigorously, and attempt to feign a convincing mask of general interest. And while you can escape to the pantry for brief spells of reprieve or temporarily stall a conversation by forcing yourself to eat another mini-quiche thing, this is a dance you will grow quite familiar with by the time dessert is being served.

As a dancer myself, I find the repetition of steps to be monotonous but bearable. We cross the floor endlessly, mechanically combining steps of profound beauty: tombé, pas de bourée, pirouette, again and again and again, until we have to turn around and go back the way we came. It’s easy to glide into a sort of autopilot, simply letting the movements happen, paying no mind to the spin of the room until you either fall over or crash dizzily into a wall. Ballet’s arduous nature comes from staying upright and attentive to everything you’re doing at all times.

In this same manner I can catch myself trailing off down some path of unwise phrasing that provides a bit too much of an honest window into my current status. “Yeah, it’s pretty stressful. I haven’t stopped writing essays for two days. If my hair looks a little uneven, that’s because I’ve grown into the habit of compulsively tearing at it while filling out applications. Oh, and see all my acne? I’m pretty sure I get stress breakouts, given the amount of anxiety I’m currently feeling. I checked with my dermatologist, he says that pretty soon pus is just going to shoot out of one of these bad boys.” Before you know it, dinner is ruined and your Aunt Maude is thoroughly disgusted with you.

The moral of this story is that a dancer’s job is to be beautiful. Be there bleeding feet or aching smiles, the show must go on at all costs. What choice have I but to continue the Caltz with new fervor? Soon I’ll be able to dance the steps in my dreams, dazzling curious senior citizens with my great feats of progress toward college. And while I’ve already grown exhausted, I return to the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, a man who was probably far more fed up with life than I am at the moment: “We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced once.” I grovel, but he’s right.

Tyus Southern is a senior at Wilton High School. He shares this column with four classmates.