The annual Boston University Dance Marathon, which raises money for pediatric AIDS research and support groups, is one of the highlights of the spring semester. Currently in its fourth year, the Dance Marathon is organized by student groups to support the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and Camp Heartland, a summer camp for children with HIV and AIDS. Since 2003, the event has raised more than $160,000 for various charities; it has been named Boston University’s Program of the Year.
More than 200 students — dancers, “moralers” (those who support and encourage the dancers throughout the event), and guests — came to the Sargent Activities Center on Saturday, April 1, to launch the 18-hour event. Two dancers shared the experience with BU Today.
Luke Stevens (CAS’09), 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
There we were, a sea of red shirts with “DANCER” printed on the back, walking down Commonwealth Avenue on Saturday. Looking out over the impressive number of people on their way to the Sargent Activities Center, my friend Amy turned to me and exclaimed, “This is going to be great!” After putting away our outfits for the theme hours, we entered the gym, only to be overwhelmed by the energy inside.
Just inside the double doors to the gym were the moralers in yellow shirts, cheering us on and slapping us high-fives. Posters bearing every dancer’s name lined the walls, urging, “Don’t Stop, Dan!” and “We Love Carolyn!” The organizers welcomed us. We performed the Dance Marathon Line Dance and started literally dancing the night away.
We did all the cheesy dance moves we could think of, like the “sprinkler,” the “shopping cart,” or my personal favorite, “the lawnmower,” to the sounds of Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” and Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” — the song made infamous by the movie Napoleon Dynamite. At 4 p.m. Greek Wedding Hour began with “The Electric Slide,” “The Hustle,” and the theme from “Footloose.” When the DJ started playing “The Macarena,” everyone got excited and joined in. (Some people got really into it — freshman Matt Lasek donned a wedding dress.)
One guest — a nurse with five HIV-positive adopted children — told us how having children with the disease has changed her life. We heard from Dennis Webster and his adopted son Ricky, also HIV-positive, about their experience with the disease. We learned about the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, an organization dedicated to basic pediatric HIV/AIDS research, and Camp Heartland, a camp where children living in the shadow of HIV/AIDS can go and be accepted by their peers. Several children who attend Camp Heartland also spoke to us to thank us for our support, and then all the speakers joined us on the dance floor.
At some point in the 18-hour marathon, Student Union President Jon Marker (CAS’07) delivered on his promise to shave his head if he was able to collect $2,000 from Dance Marathon sponsors. Marker received donations from all over the city — including one from Mayor Thomas Menino (Hon.’01) — and as promised, lopped off his famous locks.
Hayley Sher (CAS’09), 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
When Moonshine, a cover band for the type of ’90s songs that everyone knows, took a 45-minute break, Christina Aguilera filled the room for the umpteenth time. “Come on over, come on over, dancers!” yelled the behind-the-scenes coordinators of Dance Marathon.
After another collective performance of the famous line dance, which had practically become as regular as breathing, they announced it was Western Hour. Another costume change! The crowd pushed its way upstairs to prepare for a hunky-dory, cotton-eyed Joe kind of a time. Clothes flew as guys and gals alike donned cowboy hats, boots, bandanas, denim, and plaid shirts.
The drawl of country music filled the gym as dancers and moralers filtered in and out for food breaks. The long table in the lobby of the Student Activities Office had become a third home — along with the locker room, and of course, the dance floor. Hungry, sweaty, tired Dance Marathon participants scarfed down ice cream and pastries and gulped cool water before rushing back onto the dance floor to the sound of MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.” Apparently, country music was too slow.
Dancers jumped excitedly at familiar songs, screaming the words with friends and grooving in the craziest styles. After all, most “normal” dance moves had been exhausted about five hours into the marathon, eliciting some very creative maneuvers.
After about an hour of Western Hour, the crowd humbly welcomed back Moonshine, who had apparently recovered from their first jamming session and were readying to hit it up once again. The band played until midnight, receiving high praise for covering old favorites from No Doubt to Sublime. Suddenly, Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” filled the room and cheers erupted. “Oooohhhhh, we’re halfway there. Ooohh, living on a prayer!” we sang. It was true; we had been dancing for nine hours and were halfway through Dance Marathon!
After another round of the Aguilera–Dance Marathon line dance, the lights went out, black lights streamed through, and hundreds of glow sticks emerged — Rave Hour. Dancers flooded a table of fluorescent necklaces before dashing upstairs to the locker room to prepare for the Rave. This time white shirts became the costume of the hour, and yellow highlighters had been converted from study tools as friends signed shirts and skin. Techno music and old favorites such as Eiffel 65’s “I’m Blue” raged through the gymnasium as dancers waved their light sticks around.
The marathon, which ended at 10 a.m. on Sunday, ultimately raised more than $50,000 for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and Camp Heartland.