Behind the Curtain: Perspectives from the Cherry Blossom Ball
Edited by Alexandra Huggins
It is a gorgeous spring evening —Washingtonians at the bustling Union Market are enjoying their dinner and trying to discern why a procession of military uniforms, floor-length dresses, and tuxedos has formed next to their tables. The answer? Grad School Prom, more formally known as the Cherry Blossom Ball.
There were no cherry blossoms at the Ball, but there were four balloons spelling “SAIS;” a large, wide-open dance floor; many black curtains; and Mediterranean food. Also, drinks.
After a couple of those bevies go down, people are ready to share their thoughts on the evening — and their time at SAIS.
The first interviewee had positive remarks. “Last year we could only take one cookie at cookie hour; now we can take two!” Life is about progress.
The next interviewee, a student of “tech and culture,” wonders “why is W.A.P. playing?”
Another attendee: “They played W.A.P a couple minutes ago? What the f*** is going on here?” They seem pleased, though. “The drink line is exceptional, not too long.” However, “the photo line? Freakin’ long.”
I run into Ameya Joshi, a member of SGA and one of the event organizers. He agrees to go on the record. King. “I am biased because I played a part in organizing,” he clarifies. “460 people turned out. Given that number, and that people are having a good time, and there’s an official photographer… things are good.”
Another organizer goes off the record. Looking around at the curtains covering the walls, they observe, “I think the décor could be better.” Also, “It’s a little hot.” Drama.
A first-year triple S (Security, Strategy, Statecraft) student in a tuxedo is relieved to have gotten in past 8:20 (this was the stated entrance cutoff time). “The people are all looking dapper,” he says.
His date, a non-SAIS student, is with him. “It’s a good memory. It’s cheesy; you get dressed up in a warehouse.” she proclaims. She’s happy with the food: “Lots of carbs, which is good.”
We’re about halfway into the evening by this point. I’m looking for some spicier takes, maybe some budding romance. I crank up the questions.
“The core curriculum is bulls**t.” Here we go. “I don’t wanna take Comparative Politics and Evolution of International Systems. That’s not helpful for my career as an international development guy.” Readers, remember. I’m just the messenger.
I ask this development man if he’s hoping to find love tonight. “I already have love tonight. I love her.” Don’t let anyone tell you love isn’t in the air at SAIS.
A friend of mine from my International Economics I class last semester spots me. I must look like I’m enjoying myself, because her first remark is “I see the glow of not being in ECON I.” She’s dressed beautifully, so I turn on my E! News reporter and I inquire about who she’s wearing. “I got this off Amazon.” Stunning and resourceful.
Towards the end of the night, the dance floor has filled up. The DJ throws on a forever favorite, “Dancing Queen.” I want to know how people feel about it.
“It’s really happy,” a dancer exclaims. “It makes me want to dance more. SAIS is an environment that makes me want to dance.” Note to administration: if you play Abba at the new building next year, people will dance.
Another Abba-lover: “Dancing Queen makes me feel young again. I’m 24. I feel like I’m 17.” I’m not sure if they qualify as old, but I’m happy for them.
I leave the dance floor for another glass (cup) of wine. My next interviewee needs help: “Yo where’s the bathroom in this place?” I point her to where she needs to go. “In the curtain?” she asks, confused.
My next interviewee reviews the food: “it gave me high blood pressure because of the salt.”
Not all SAISers are at Union Market tonight. Across the city, a “Blossomless Party” hosts ticketless students. I recruit someone on the inside to get me insights.
“Neoliberalism is f***ed,” says one of the blossomless.
Another: “I live in a closet… it’s a decent size… there are no windows and I pay $1,200.” Who doesn’t love the D.C. housing market?
The end of the night is almost here. Soon, all SAISers shall soundly snooze away the drama and delights of the evening. Staff are already taking down the curtains. Tomorrow, we go back to the business of saving the world. Or becoming bankers.
Until next year, grad school prom.