Two student singers and one pianist addressed the usefulness of Dance Marathon as well as expanded the topics covered to address mental illness.
Second-year English student Ulani Mafate and third-year political science student Kevin Jang took the stage early Sunday morning. Mafate kicked off the performance, singing a medley of “God is a woman” by Ariana Grande and “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off” by Ella Eyre, while Jang accompanied on piano.
Following 22 hours of dancing, the crowd began to mellow, but Mafate and Jang’s medley was emotionally moving, said Olivia Handrahan, a third-year communication student. Handrahan said even though the dancers were delirious and may not have been paying attention to specific lyrics, she could still feel the powerful emotion in Mafate’s voice. Prior to the event, Mafate said the duo practiced putting a lot of emotion into the songs. Mafate said Dance Marathon is shrouded in a layer of misconception, as it said it believes that the fundraiser is grounded in understanding that passion is a coping mechanism for pain rather than finding a cure.
“Dance Marathon is just a way for us to take control of what’s happening right now, or just the illusion that we’re in control,” Mafate said. “In a much more light sense, having fun and having a purpose by contributing to a larger cause that we have created.”
Mafate said since there is no cure for HIV and AIDS, through events like Dance Marathon, participants should enjoy themselves and embrace the feeling of control – Dance Marathon is about trying to make light of a dark situation, it said. Jang said he and Mafate want to show people participating in Dance Marathon who are affected by HIV and AIDS that they are supported and are not alone in their struggle.
The second performer during the time slot was Jason Mally, a fourth-year computer science and cognitive science student who performed two original songs and completed his set with Third Eye Blind’s “Jumper,” to which the audience sang and danced along. Mally’s intentions during his performance, however, were to raise awareness for more than just HIV and AIDS, he said prior to the event.
The primary inspiration for his performance was to break down the stigmas surrounding mental illness, he said. Mally’s first two original songs were a window into his experiences, he said, with mental illness conveyed through his lyrics. He said he wanted his music to present his own experiences to help fight stigmas while unifying people through understanding.
“(Dance Marathon) is about the concept of maintaining an open mind and fighting preconceived notions that you’ve been taught your entire childhood,” Mally said. “Many people at UCLA are open-minded, and I think that’s really a blessing that we have at this school.”
In response to Mally’s performance, Handrahan said it was meaningful to hear a fellow student sing his own music. She said it was fulfilling to not only support the cause of Dance Marathon but also to support fellow Bruins and their stories through their songwriting.
“One of the reasons that I think Dance Marathon is such an effective way to raise funds and awareness for AIDS and the transmission of it is because music is a unifying force,” Mally said. “So when people are brought together using art, it’s easy to influence and change people’s minds and hearts for these issues.”