Student of interest: Long Zhao

You’ve seen him before. You’re striding toward the cafeteria, intent upon being the first to feast upon the lunch line. You cross the quad and you’re almost at the door, but then you hear music, pulsing with a powerful, funky beat.

Behold, Long, in all his glory, dancing to his own tune for the whole school to see.  Although his dedication to his passion is readily apparent, unfortunately, this tenacity brings its own troubles. Who else can say that they’ve received a detention and almost been sued for practicing their hobby?

A senior, Long has been dancing since the summer of sophomore year. It all started when he watched another student’s presentation and heard the term “popping.” He searched it out of curiosity, tried it and never looked back. As he gradually improved, he realized that dance allowed him to develop his own individual style, that he loved the feeling of improving. To further his progress, he practiced everywhere.

In addition to consistent hours at home, he danced at school — lunch, brunch, before and after school, even “downtime” during class. When he first started practicing in front of other people, Long was “terribly nervous,” as if he was “dancing in a cloud and couldn’t see straight.” He eventually overcame his anxiety and now ignores others’ opinions. Other benefits he gained include improved posture, a strong subject for his college application essay and the fulfillment of striving for improvement but never settling. Although Long values dance, he values these skills more, as he can apply them in life to pursue his goals.

His firm dedication also creates some problems. Some students snicker and scoff when he practices at school. He has also received complaints and “a lot more hostility” for practicing in the 1000 building. Despite several teacher complaints, Long kept dancing, even receiving a detention one day for his actions.

Yet that punishment pales in comparison to the threat of a lawsuit. Long was alarmed when he discovered that a neighbor planned to sue him if he kept practicing at night. The neighbor even recorded his practice sessions as evidence, and attempted to rally the surrounding households. Wishing to avoid confrontation and further trouble, Long simply moved his post-nightfall dance sessions to the Live Oak Sports Park, where he improves his craft alone in cold dimness, sometimes even after midnight.

Despite his current devotion to dance, he doesn’t consider it a significant part of his future. Although he may keep dancing on the side, Long desires a career in something like business or management that will yield him serious profit. He has somewhat of a fixation on money — it “feels right on a deep level,” likely because of the freedom it grants. When I asked him what he plans to do when he attains satisfactory wealth, he simply replied, “whatever I want.”