For a full 24 hours, from 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11 to 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 12, the Arrillaga Alumni Center pulsated with energy and enthusiasm as Stanford’s eighth annual Dance Marathon rocked campus all day — and all night — long.
After spending months fundraising for FACE AIDS, a student-led nonprofit committed to fighting HIV/AIDS, hundreds of students took a literal stand for the cause and pledged to stay on their feet for at least a portion of the event, if not all 24 hours.
Walking into the building for my shift, I got a preview of the event’s energy from the welcome crew’s attitudes during registration. Their bright smiles matched their neon attire as they signed in dancers, handing out nametags and purple “Dancer” T-shirts to the participants.
Inside the dance room, the enthusiasm was contagious. Throbbing speakers flanked a large stage, sending dance music booming throughout the room. The beams from colorful disco lights spun across the floor and climbed the walls, spotlighting the cardinal red balloons and banners made by dorms across campus to cheer on the dancers.
Opposite the stage hung an enormous Dance Marathon calendar, showcasing the different holidays throughout the year that made up the marathon’s theme, “Seasons of Love.” Every three hours, the “season” would change and dancers would receive a bracelet to signify the amount of time they had been dancing.
The dancers’ attire reflected their high energy. Neon tank tops, glitter spandex, pink tutus, short shorts, knee-high socks and colorful caps abounded. Several dancers who stayed for the entire event even brought enough clothes to put together different rally outfits throughout the 24 hours.
During the first hour, I had the chance witness a piece of the camaraderie and community that would only continue to develop during the following 23 hours. When Shakira’s “Waka Waka” filled the room, one at a time we came together to learn the dance. By the time the song ended, at least half of the dancers were moving in sync, coordinating our shimmies and claps with one another and throwing our heads back at once.
As a Dance Marathon tradition, every year the organizers choreograph a dance to a selected song for the dancers to perform at every “season change” — that is, every three hours. This year, participants came together to learn a dance to Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.” Some dancers were so engaged with the dance that they continued to groove even after they were permitted to sit down after the marathon event ended.
Though the choreographed dances were certainly a highlight, several other moments from the 24 hours offered breaks from the constant movement. Talented student groups provided entertainment throughout the event, with not an hour going by without some sort of encouraging performance. A cappella groups, dance troupes and student bands all graced the stage with their presence, and the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band (LSJUMB) made a surprise performance to get the marathoners through their last hour. Some student groups provided dance lessons for participants, including Los Salseros and Swing Time. Another popular event was “yoga raving,” a relaxing and reenergizing yoga session complete with singing and a massage train.
For those who needed a break from the loud music and endless dancing, board and video games from Jenga to Boggle to Super Smash Bros. to Wii Sports were on hand. For those dedicated students who could not afford to give up 24 hours without studying for upcoming midterms, the event offered tables tall enough for student to do schoolwork without breaking their promise to stay standing. These tall tables doubled as pillows for some dancers during the wee hours of the morning.
While I expected there to be a significant difference in the levels of energy in the room between 1 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday, I was amazed to see that the dancers seemed to have just as much, if not more energy during their last hour of marathon-ing than during their first.
“The Reveal,” the point at which the event organizers shared how much money the dancers raised, took place in the last 15 minutes of the marathon. Holding up one digit at a time, they dramatically disclosed that their fundraising efforts had brought in a grand total of $60,085.97 — to be donated to Partners in Health, a nonprofit organization that aims to deliver health and social justice to the world’s poorest communities, and Bay Area Young Positives, a nonprofit that provides support for young people with HIV.
To celebrate this feat, the dancers took part in one more morale-dance before dancing to the last song, “The Final Countdown.” At exactly 1 p.m., the dancers simultaneously collapsed to the floor for the first time in 24 hours, only to pop back up a few seconds later to continue dancing — this time in celebration.
While the dancing had come to an end, the event proved to be the best one-night stand of the year.