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about 7 months ago
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The Anatomy Of THON’s Line Dance

Bobby Chen

THON wouldn’t be THON without those famous five words shaking the BJC every so often.

But for “morale captains, to the stage!” to work, it takes work. Dancer Wellness Coordinator Maria Warchola is this year’s Morale Captain in charge of the line dance. Morale begins working on creating the line dance shortly after committees are decided, and from there, it’s a grind.

Morale captains narrow down a large list of songs during every meeting they have in the fall semester, eventually getting it down to 10 or so. They begin considering topics toward the end of the fall semester.

“We keep a big Google Doc and keep updating it on topics, PSU, pop culture, news and THON stuff,” Warchola said.

Then, everything comes together during a weekend in January, usually the first after winter break, where the Morale Captains formulate the dance’s couplets and lyrics. The Moralers practice until they have it memorized, then they teach the executive committee, and eventually the committee members.

It’s easier said than done, as any dancer will tell you. So what’s the best way to learn how to do it?

“I would say the first step was listening to the lyrics,” Warchola said. “Once you get the lyrics down, the rest kind of follows it. I’d say it takes a couple of weeks.”

While the line dance gives each THON a distinct mark, it’s also got a different pragmatic purpose – stretching. The stretches focus on the back, neck, arms and feet, and the dance’s creators are careful that there aren’t too many stretches of the same body part in close proximity. Warchola has to stay fresh, too, so a pair of other captains replace her as the dancer’s leader occasionally.

While some think the dance is played on the hour every hour, that’s not the case. The captains plan when to go to the stage(!) based off THON’s overall schedule so that it turns out to be quite random. Sometimes, there will only be 25 minutes between dances; other times, 75 minutes.

The captains are conscious of dance difficulty, too.

“It should definitely not be too hard,” Warchola said. “It should be something they can at least follow along with. It should be a challenge so they can get better and better until the end.”

Warchola had trouble picking her favorite part of this year’s dance, but was partial to the second verse (which contains popular line “SHUT DOWN FOR WHAT?”). THON 2013 Morale Captain Robbie Mitchell agreed.

As for the best line dance ever, different dancers will say different things. Warchola said her golden standard is THON 2011′s (“BOOM! Now shake those stands!”) because it was her freshman year dance, but Mitchell decided not to pick one because he was biased toward 2013’s.

Regardless, all line dances have a long creation process in common.

“It’s a lot harder than it seems,” Mitchell said. “It takes a lot of work and I have so much respect for any line dance coordinator.

THON - The IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON), the most ubiquitous event on campus, has been in existence since 1973. THON currently benefits the Four Diamonds Fund at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center Children’s Hospital and has raised over $100,000,000 since its inception. Read more