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Dance Marathon brings performances, HIV/AIDS advocacy to Ackerman Grand Ballroom

Seven members of the Pediatric AIDS Coalition morale team smile and dance on stage. Organized by PAC, Dance Marathon kicked off Saturday at 11:00 a.m. in Ackerman Grand Ballroom. (Karla Cardenas-Felipe/Daily Bruin)

By Eric Sican

April 6, 2024 3:10 p.m.

UCLA’s Pediatric AIDS Coalition is ready to dance the night away at Ackerman Grand Ballroom for a benevolent cause. 

This Saturday marks PAC’s annual Dance Marathon, which will run for a total of 13 hours starting at 11 a.m. and ending at midnight. Although the event is six hours shorter than last year’s 19-hour marathon, it still serves the same purpose of bringing awareness to HIV and AIDS. More specifically, the event aims to acknowledge and fundraise for children living with pediatric AIDS or HIV. Lily Anderson, one of PAC’s co-directors of publicity and a third-year biology student, said the Dance Marathon serves a multitude of benefits for both the cause and the students.  

“We get to really see how our work pays off and what the money we fundraise goes to,” Anderson said. “I think that seeing the direct impact that we have has been a really great motivator for getting so involved in PAC and getting really excited for the Dance Marathon.”

Sporting yellow tops, six members of PAC smile for the camera. Organized by PAC, Dance Marathon began Saturday at 11:00 a.m. and will end at midnight. (Karla Cardenas-Felipe/Daily Bruin)

[Related: Dance Marathon concludes with uplifting spirit and $118,413.83 raised]

Anderson said part of the reasoning behind the change in the length of the event from previous Dance Marathons was PAC’s realization that students do not want to stay for the entirety of the event. This year, PAC will scatter its many keynote speakers throughout the event in hopes of giving people the flexibility to come and go as they please without missing important details, Anderson said. 

Ackerman Grand Ballroom was transformed into a lively dance studio filled with booths ranging from informative topics about the cause to entertainment given by some of UCLA’s very own students. PAC’s director of public relations and third-year public affairs student Rowan Kruger said she is excited for this year’s Dance Marathon to feel more lively than her previous experience at last year’s event, which was held at Pauley Pavilion. Kruger added that the smaller size of the room is aimed to create a more intimate atmosphere.

Unlike last year, which focused on bringing information to attendees on the different charities, Anderson said the main focus of the event will be its performers. Throughout the event, student bands and performers such as Evergreen and Hasitha Guhan will showcase their talents. PAC will also be inviting its longtime DJ, Michael Basic, who served as the main DJ for the event last year. 

PAC public relations member and first-year biology student Stephanie Manasyan said one of the main goals of this year’s event is to bring students to sign a legislative act that would make pre-exposure prophylaxis, a medication taken to prevent contracting HIV, free. To emphasize this aim, PAC set up a table where students and dancers can find QR codes directing them to the voter registry website, a document with a template of the legislation, and a website where they can find and send letters urging their state legislators to get involved. 

“This would ultimately help with making PrEP free for anyone with insurance, prohibiting insurance premium increases, and denial of life or disability insurance based on the PrEP usage,” Manasyan said. “It would offer grants to local groups and organizations who work with those who are uninsured or underserved communities.”

[Related: Dance Marathon 2023]

After a late start, dancers started to hit the dance floor, showing off their various moves. Similar to last year, PAC’s morale team – members of PAC who assist in keeping the dynamic energy of the marathon – kicked off the dancing to songs such as Justin Bieber’s “Somebody to Love.” While the dance floor was still bare from the lack of dancers, the liveliness of the event was held up by the few who were dancing alongside the morale team. 

PAC’s executive director of outreach and fourth-year public affairs student Dexter Darmali said he chooses to be a part of Dance Marathon because he enjoys seeing everyone having a good time, spreading awareness about the cause and raising as much money as possible for the different charities PAC donates to. 

“The cause is definitely great,” Darmali said. “Creating an AIDS-free generation and dancing until there’s a cure, I think is a really great mindset and something greater than myself. And when a community comes together, there’s so much power in it.”

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