In their 26th hour of dancing without sleep, about a thousand people crouched down during The Isley Brothers’ song “Shout.” Chase Skillin physically could not. Unable to bend his legs because he tore a ligament in his knee nearly three weeks ago, he was one of the few people standing up, his crutches propped under his arms.
“I can’t go down,” the second-year psychobiology student said. “My dance moves are pretty restricted, but (it’s better this way) because I’m not a very good dancer,” he added with a laugh.
Even with his injury, Skillin decided to participate in Dance Marathon this past weekend, along with about 900 dancers and more than 3,000 volunteers. The annual event aims to raise money to combat pediatric AIDS and educate the public about prevention of the disease, said Andrew Ho, a third-year psychobiology student and president of the Pediatric AIDS Coalition, which puts on Dance Marathon.
Despite the exhaustion, sweat and pain, the dancers tried to remain upright in Ackerman Grand Ballroom, swaying to loud music, watching celebrity guest performances and listening to inspirational speakers – all to take a symbolic stand against pediatric AIDS.
The participants raised $475,422.57, surpassing last year’s total by more than $24,000. In its 11 years at UCLA, the event has raised about $3.5 million total.
Dancers commenced the 26-hour task on Saturday at 11 a.m., though many of the event organizers remained awake for far longer than 26 hours, preparing for and cleaning up the aftermath of Dance Marathon.
Ho, standing barefoot in the ballroom after the marathon’s end, said he stayed awake and active at the event for 33 hours straight.
But he was willing to sacrifice his sleep for the cause, he said.
“It’s not so much about what you’re doing, but what you’re doing it for,” he said.
Some students, like fourth-year political science student Karin Swanson, participated in the event for their first time this year.
Swanson said she signed up for Dance Marathon for the first time thinking she would only raise money and not participate, but was glad she ultimately chose to dance. Swanson added her ears were ringing, but dancing the entire time was not too difficult.
“I’m going to graduate this quarter so I thought, ‘This is my last mark,’” she said.
Others have participated every chance they could.
“Four years have gotten me used to the hump,” said Taylor Rapson, a fourth-year physical science student and four-time Dance Marathon participant. “I know what to expect.”
“My body was still working through all the exhaustion and soreness in my muscles,” Rapson said. “I’m graduating this year, but I definitely want to come back and morale for friends in the future.”
Some of the participants traveled from beyond Westwood to make it to the event.
Rebecca Limerck, a fourth-year visual arts media student at UC San Diego, drove to Los Angeles from San Diego as the sun rose to arrive at Dance Marathon in time. Limerck has participated in Dance Marathon three times now, she said.
“I don’t know where I’ll be (next year), but hopefully I’ll find (a Dance Marathon) there,” she said.
Skillin sat down for the first time after 26 hours Sunday afternoon, laying his crutches on the ground.
“Oh yes,” he said, relieved at the chance to stretch his leg.
Minutes later, Skillin slung his backpack over his shoulders, positioned his crutches beneath his arms and made the 20-minute trek to Strathmore Avenue, alone.
As the majority of people filed out of the auditorium, Pam Cysner stood to the left of the stage, wiping away tears from her cheeks.
Cysner, an advisor at the Center for Student Programming who has attended Dance Marathon since its inception in 2002, said she knows about all of the hard work that is put into the event.
She then embraced Erin Roodhuyzen, a fourth-year communication studies student and member of the Pediatric AIDS Coalition, who was also in tears.
“I’m so proud of you guys,” Cysner said to Roodhuyzen.
Roodhuyzen said she became emotional during the final presentations because the cause has become her passion since she first participated in Dance Marathon four years ago,
“It’s amazing to have it culminate in this, the most successful Dance Marathon,” she said.
Contributing reports by Marilia Marasciulo, Bruin contributor.