Fourth-year communication student Isabel Whelan led Dance Marathon’s transition from upbeat rhythms to a more serious repertoire.
Whelan performed four original songs around 3:15 a.m., incorporating acoustic tunes to set the mood for the upcoming vigil.
As soon as Whelan took the stage, she encouraged dancers to sing along with her to her first song, “Figure It Out.” Whelan said she wanted to make her set intimate and interactive, hoping the dancers could connect with the music. She gave her audience previews of the chorus and by the end of the song, those in the front of the crowd were singing along with her. Whelan said she wrote the piece to symbolize the final months of her college experience.
“I’m about to graduate, so it’s a song about trying to figure out your life after college and pursuing your dreams,” Whelan said. “I think it’s something that everybody can relate to.”
Holly Alexander, a second-year psychology student, said “Figure It Out” was her favorite song from Whelan’s performance because of its unifying qualities.
“It was nice to see everybody singing it together … it makes you feel more connected,” Alexander said.
Whelan continued to perform her next songs, “Cosmic” and “Drive.” The two numbers showcased a more serious side to the performance, as Whelan’s vocal range grew deeper and her notes longer. “Cosmic,” inspired by Whelan’s interest in astronomy, was dotted with motifs about space, while “Drive” focused on embarking on a relaxing journey to take respite from reality.
The dancers formed a massage train during “Cosmic” and swayed their phone flashlights for “Drive.” Whelan closed out her time on stage with the song “Kerosene.” The message was emotionally heavier compared to her previous songs, with lyrics regarding uncertainty about oneself in the face of unrealistic expectations.
Third-year Russian studies student Gracen Blackwell said she thought “Kerosene” was the most heartfelt of the four songs. It was a change from the energy-filled themes of earlier performances, she said.
“I think (‘Kerosene’) has got this flowing melody … it’s nice to be existing with this melody floating into you,” Blackwell said.
Whelan said she has always attempted to maintain philanthropic values in her lifestyle, and saw Dance Marathon as another opportunity to do so. The event was a way for her to showcase her newer solo music while supporting the Pediatric AIDS Coalition, she said.
“I’ve always passionate about … using music in a way that can help people come together,” Whelan said. “I have this music and I want to share it with people, and help with the cause in the way that I can.”