Dancing the night (and day) away

Early Saturday afternoon, Dance Marathon first-timers and veterans alike arrived at the Arrillaga Alumni center. The newcomers were entirely unsure of what to expect from the coming 24 hours of the now-infamous around-the-clock music and madness charity event. Dancers in all kinds of attire, from pragmatic marathoners in track shorts and sneakers to more creative individuals in tutus and multi-colored spandex, had begun to crowd the lobby in anticipation of the 1 p.m. start time.

The energy filling the lobby was a combination of nearly tangible adrenaline-fueled elation and equally palpable apprehension at the thought of dancing—or at the very least, standing—for a full 24 hours.

One continually cited motivation for the full-day energy expenditure was solidarity with the beneficiaries of Dance Marathon’s proceeds, primarily AIDS patients in developing nations as well as Haitian victims of the recent earthquake.

“I don’t know how I’m going to do this,” one girl nervously told her friends. “But it’s for charity, right?”

The music coming from the direction of the dance floor grew suddenly louder, and they could hear the pounding of dozens of maniacal “moralers” drum-rolling on the floor to announce the commencement of the sixth annual Dance Marathon. Suddenly, the doors to McCaw Hall flew open and the many ranks of dancers stampeded onto the dance floor, yelling, laughing and busting some serious moves.

In those first hours, they rocked, grooved and boogied down to tracks from across the decades, courtesy of The Beatles and Lady Gaga. Motivated by the cause and the enthusiasm of flamboyantly-dressed “moralers”—students who signed up to work in 3-hour shifts throughout the event as dance floor motivators—they put aside the slowly growing soreness in the dancers’ feet and pushed ahead.

One dedicated 24-hour moraler, Elise Geithner ’13, mentioned that she’d brought practically an entire wardrobe in preparation for a night of costume changes.

At 5 p.m. the first (and only) Dance Marathon casualty occurred during a game of limbo, which broke out under an impromptu limbo stick. Four rounds in to the proceedings, Kimmy Scheible ‘13, having just made it through an impossibly low level, ended up on the floor with a dislocated knee. She didn’t know how low she could go. Stoic, high-spirited and still sporting her tiara, Scheible was removed from the marathon on a stretcher and was unable to return to the dance floor. Her comrades though, progressed in her memory.

As the evening went on, tired dancers began to filter out of the room and fresh-faced, energetic latecomers arrived to replace them on the floor. In an attempt to relax and inspire the slowly fading dancers, DM organizers brought in a huge variety of student performing groups throughout the marathon—five a cappella groups, dance performances and lessons for anyone whose feet weren’t yet protesting too loudly, and even an appearance by Wushu martial arts, whose flips, flying kicks and sword-wielding channeled Bruce Lee.

The period between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. has earned a reputation for being the highest energy shift of the event. It’s the time when hundreds of students who’ve exhausted their party-hopping options flood the dance floor to support their friends and elevate the mood for three intense (and intoxicated) hours of celebration.

Conversely, the following wee hours of the morning were arguably the hardest, as dancers struggled to maintain enthusiasm in spite of throbbing feet and knotted calves. These were the hours when the coat check room, initially a spot for quiet conversation and IHUM reading, became a slumber party—at one point nine dancers were asleep on their backpacks—despite the anti-sitting rules. This was also the time when a strange and wonderful phenomenon occurred. For all those dancers who’ve been going at it like Energizer bunnies for the past 12 hours, the once-new faces of the hardcore, 24-hour dancers started to become familiar.

With all the rollercoaster-ing blood sugar levels, diminishing numbers of dancers on the floor, our ever-encouraging moralers decided that 5:30 am was the perfect time to bring in the big guns: pillows. Why on earth would you give pillows to people attempting to stay awake and active for 24 hours?

A pillow fight, of course, set to Pink’s pump-up single “So What,” seemed like just the thing to boost adrenaline enough to make it through the next six-and-a-half hours. Unfortunately, a number of dancers attempted to use these pillows for more traditional purposes; napping incidents increased exponentially in that hour.

The final six hours of Dance Marathon were some of the most simultaneously painful and exhilarating. As the sky slowly lightened to a delicate periwinkle and a hearty, quick-energy breakfast of bagels and pastries arrived, all perception of time and the past day seemed to vanish.

“Wait, that was yesterday?” marveled one student in the breakfast line, astonished at the thought of having been on the dance floor for over 20 hours at that point.

Their feet hurt as badly as they never had over the course of the past day and night, and sugar crashes abounded, but they forced their energy levels up for the home stretch of DM 2010. Even so, the exhaustion—even in those with a strong will to conceal it—was evident.

They entered the home stretch: the final half hour, the final fundraising total—over $174,000 for beneficiary Partners In Health—and a rousing rendition of Europe’s “The Final Countdown.” They celebrated the finale at 1 p.m. on the dot to the LSJUMB, the Tree and the Dollies cheering them on with “All Right Now.”

From their soles to their souls, Dance Marathon definitely made an impression on its participants, from late night drop-in dancers to hardcore 24-hour marathoners to the dedicated organizers behind it all.

“We’re so honored to have worked with all these fantastic directors, hackers, dancers and staff to put on the best Dance Marathon yet,” concluded a tired Lia Bonamassa ’10, one of the DM directors. “See you next year!”

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