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Dance Marathon: Behind the dancing

BY BRIANNA JETT | FEBRUARY 04, 2014 5:00 AM

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The moment one Dance Marathon comes to a close, another begins behind the scenes. It’s a marathon of planning.

Although the Big Event lasts one day, those 24 hours are a mere fraction of time that goes into preparing.

“It’s basically a full year of planning,” said Taylor McKee, the Dance Marathon media relations head.

For 20 years, the University of Iowa has been a host to Dance Marathon — a group of students raising money to support children with cancer. The adrenaline-racing, fist-pumping Big Event is a well-known story. However, there is a lot of work that goes into Dance Marathon that isn’t as recognizable.

“It’s a lot of meetings, lots of planning, lots of emails back and forth,” McKee said.

For an event to go off without a hitch, someone has to organize the logistics. This year, that man is Dakota Thomas. As the executive operations director, he oversees the pickups, drop-offs, and assembly of everything that goes into the Big Event. This includes everything from the Panchero’s burritos to the front stage.

It’s no easy task.

“The hardest part is probably meeting deadlines,” he said.

However, Thomas has some help.

There is a committee of 34 people dedicated to helping organize the event. On top of that, there are nearly 400 volunteers to do the heavy lifting.

For Thomas, the week leading up to the Big Event is nearly as busy as the main event itself.  Monday is check-in day. Beginning Wednesday night, the leadership of Dance Marathon floods into the IMI and begins setting up. By Friday, all the lights, the sound systems, and the stage will be complete and ready to welcome the dancers.

But the opening ceremony doesn’t mean the job is done.

Behind the scenes, Dance Marathon workers are also working to bring the dancing into the living rooms of those still at home.

“We will be running our social media the entire 24 hours,” Drake Wilbur, the public relations and marketing director for Dance Marathon, said.

A committee of 19 students will spend the Big Event pushing photography, video, and stories onto their social-media sites.

“The Big Event is more than just the Main Lounge,” Thomas said.

Those running the Big Event are also running a medley of side-rooms. The most popular is the Best-Buy room, which houses such video-games systems as PlayStation and Xbox.

“It’s really impressive,” Thomas said. “When you’re just sitting in the IMU, you never see how big it is.”

A year of planning means everything serves a purpose. All the extra rooms are used to give students a break — while still keeping them in sight.

“It’s a really easy way for us to monitor if people are trying to sit down or sneak off,” McKee said. “It gives them another outlet.”

Dance Marathon also provides the families with a place out of the spotlight. Above the Main Lounge are rooms set aside for the families of the children.

“We like to give our families space to come and go and participate as much or as little as they want,” McKee said.

But even though a lot of time and energy is given to pulling off the Big Event, Thomas said it’s worth it.

“I want them to really see how happy I am when I do it,” he said.


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