University tradition dances to the beat of a cause

By Tim Michaels

With the midnight hour approaching, the crowd screamed in cheer and exhaustion as the third annual Dance Marathon came to an end. The Dance Marathon, held each year at Ida Noyes, serves as one of the University’s largest fundraisers. This year, the 12-hour event raised over $6,700 for the Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric AIDS Foundation, an organization that supports research efforts for AIDS and assists families of children with AIDS throughout the world.

Dance Marathon began two years ago, sponsored by the Council on University Programming (COUP) as a way to make the University community more involved in charitable activities.

“Since COUP is known for its large social events and since Dance Marathon is such an established program throughout the nation, it seemed a great event for COUP to take on and a great new tradition for the University of Chicago,” said Erin Sweeney, the 2004 Dance Marathon chair for COUP.

Although this year’s Dance Marathon was reduced to twelve hours—a departure from the 16 hours of previous years—plenty of activities kept dancers and spectators occupied and entertained for well over the allotted time. Towards the end of the marathon, the group was addressed by Ben Banks, an HIV-positive college student who has been living with HIV since his youth.

“Though it was tiring at times, our speaker reminded us all why we were participating in the event,” said Anju Mahajan, a fourth-year in the College and first-time participant. “He was inspiring, which made the pain disappear and the last couple hours enjoyable. It was a great day, because it was a great cause.”

Other activities surrounding the Marathon included a raffle, karaoke, Big Chair photos, mocktails, and a two-hour after-party.

Dancers and organizers agreed that the reduced dance time worked well. “The new formatting of the event—twelve hours instead of eighteen, starting at noon instead of 6 p.m.—is so much better,” said Emily Alpert, a second-year in the College. “That way, the event climaxes when everyone’s friends are showing up, and my Sunday is left intact.”

For many marathoners, the countdown to midnight was most memorable.  “It was the most exciting point in the night and was without a doubt the biggest highlight of the day,” Sweeney said. “The energy, the emotions, and the enthusiasm made it a moment that I will never forget.”

Although some people criticized the D.J.’s choice of music, many felt that his music selection was more diverse than in previous years. “People complained that last year he played too much hip hop. We balanced it more this year so that was not a problem,” Sweeney said. “Our D.J. is the reason our event is so good. He does the entire event for free and is one of the best D.J.s in Chicago.”

Overall, the event marked one of the most successful Dance Marathons at the University. In upcoming years, COUP hopes to build the event to the popularity of other universities like Northwestern, which just celebrated their 30th annual Dance Marathon with a 30-hour running—that is, dancing—time.