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Officials plan 24-hour Dance Marathon down to the minute

BY AUDREY SMITH | FEBRUARY 04, 2011 7:10 AM

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Dance Marathon’s “Big Event” is scheduled down to the minute — 288 five-minute increments, to be exact.

The intense scheduling has taken months to perfect — from filling each five-minute interval to reserving every one of the IMU’s available rooms.

“The toughest part about [the scheduling] is keeping our dancers on their feet for 24 hours while thanking our sponsors … and keeping [the dancers] entertained,” said University of Iowa junior Tony Biondi, the Dance Marathon entertainment director.

Biondi has worked to compile an entertainment lineup he said he thinks students will enjoy.

This year, the Dance Marathon schedule includes entertainment ranging from musical acts to magic shows.

Two of the featured acts this year are Good Luck Jane, a band based in Chicago, and illusionist Nate Staniforth. The schedule also includes acts from the UI campus, such as hip-hop dance group UI Breakers and the Indian dance group Iowa Andhi.

Biondi said despite the rigid schedule, it will be possible to get headline acts and their equipment on and off stage within the set time.

“We make sure we don’t put us in a situation where we’re going to affect another act,” he said.

Dance Marathon officials began contacting possible entertainment acts last semester, logging each entry into a master Excel spreadsheet that is now in at least its 10th version. The spreadsheet includes a schedule for the Main Lounge and each of the IMU’s other rooms, said Kyle-Dale Walters, the event’s executive director.

Rooms in the IMU will include activities for dancers and families, including a “casino room” and another honoring children lost to cancer, said Courtney Bond, the Dance Marathon adviser.

Despite schedulers’ best efforts to keep track of the entertainment in the Main Lounge — as well as the activities in the IMU’s other rooms — the Big Event ran around five minutes behind last year.

Walters said a lag often results when a speaker or morale captain cannot be found among the mass of people in the IMU or when stories from Dance Marathon families run long.

“Some of these families have unbelievable stories, and it takes more than five to 10 minutes,” Biondi said.

So in order to account for these variables, Dance Marathon schedulers have left leeway time between major acts, allowing time for executives to get the event back on schedule if necessary. And when they’re not catching up, Dance Marathon officials will use the downtime to play music for participants. Biondi said because of this, many dancers never realize the event is running behind schedule.

UI sophomore Stephanie Coffin will participate in Dance Marathon for the second time this year.
“It ran really smoothly,” she said about last year’s Big Event. “You could definitely pick up on all the work that went into it.”


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