For most of us at THON, the line dance is meant to keep us stretched out and moving. For others, however, their whole weekend revolves around the hourly dance and making sure it’s energetic. This responsibility falls on the line dance leader, formally referred to as the Dancer Wellness Captain, Julia Magowan.
We chatted with Magowan in between hourly dances to learn a little bit about how the line dance is created and what some of her favorite references are.
Onward State: How’d you get involved in THON?
Julia Magowan: My freshman year I came in knowing about THON, I came from a Penn State family so I know what it was. I had actually come to THON my senior year of high school, I was on a tour, I left the tour and we made our way into the BJC, it was THON weekend. I was just enamored and in awe by the amount of work that goes into running an entire arena for an entire weekend and I just couldn’t believe it was run by students. So I came in knowing I wanted to be involved in THON and I knew a couple of people who told me I should apply for dancer relations my freshman year so I did it and now I’m here!
OS: How are you involved with creating the line dance?
JM: So my position is called Dancer Wellness, and a part of the Dancer Wellness committee is Line Dance Coordinator, so we start early in the year and we just start to work on it as the year progresses. I’m just kind of in charge of collecting songs that people send to me and we start working on the background song and then we slowly start to build then later in the year all the DR captains get together for a weekend and we make it.
OS: How does the process work when you’re creating the line dance? How do you start to piece it together?
JM: We pretty much compile topics throughout the year as well, like big events, and we break them up into the verses: Penn State, world events, social events and pop culture, and THON. So you break it up that way and then a huge part of my job when we do make it as dancer wellness is to think, ‘Can we make this a stretch? Can we make this a little safer for dancers? Can we make this a more dynamic body movement?’ Because the point of the line dance is just to get everybody movement in a safe way that’s going to benefit their body and make it fun. So as we make it I’m in charge of saying, ‘Are we following these guidelines?’ Just to make sure that it’s as beneficial for the dancers as possible.
OS: What’s your favorite lyric or reference?
JM: I love doing the “Final five, strong and bold” because I was a gymnast when I was younger so I like doing the gymnastics salute, it makes me think that I’m still good at gymnastics, which I’m not. And almost in the same part I really like doing the “Phelps, Ledecky made of gold” move, but I think my favorite reference might have to be “Raindrop, drop top” — it’s so fun to say! You can’t not love it.
There’s always deaths in [the line dance], you talk about people who died. We tried hard and I think this year we did a really good job memorializing them instead of making it sad. So like we have Prince, dancing in the purple rain, which I think is a really cool way, and “Leia’s force will remain,” I really enjoy those lines.
OS: How do you prepare to do the line dance over and over all weekend?
JM: We have practices and I do it in the shower a lot and I practice when my roommates are gone, a lot. I thought I would be more prepared than I was, but being on the stage for the first time I don’t think there’s anything that can really prepare you for that unless you’re a performer, which I’m not, so that was a little nerve wrecking. I do teach fitness classes on campus so I’m used to being in front of people and being on my left when everyone else is on their right. I just said it as many times as I possibly can and get it to be muscle memory as best as possible. All the DR captains and the EC (executive committee) work on it as much as we possibly can together so it’s going to look good for the dancers and they can enjoy it as much as they possibly can, because the more we know it the more they know it and the more they’ll move throughout the weekend.
OS: So how long ago did you start working to learn and memorize it?
JM: Once we made it, so earlier this semester. Once it was completed, that’s all I did.
OS: Was there a line or reference you really liked that got cut?
JM: Well it didn’t get fully cut but I’m actually a horrible rhymer and I made one couplet about Gilmore Girls and it was “If you leave I will follow, take me back to Stars Hollow.” I love Gilmore Girls and I rhymed for probably the first time in my entire life and it was too long of a couplet so we cut it down, but I’m happy Gilmore Girls is still in it, but I was just really proud of that.
OS: How do you think you’ll react after you do your last line dance of the weekend?
JM: I’ll probably cry. Something so amazing is just seeing everyone together and doing one thing as a united force and it just shows that so many people in one place can come together and stand up against something so awful, and show the world what cancer cannot do. I think that will be sad, moving on from seeing something so cool and knowing that the weekend is coming to an end. I know I’m going to be sad, but I’m also so incredibly proud of everyone in this building and everything they’ve accomplished in 46 hours and in the whole year. I think that will be hard to let go of but I think I’ll also be really proud.
OS: Why do you THON?
JM: One major reason why I THON is because I’m so inspired by everybody who puts time and energy into this organization to make something so special for families that they may never meet, and I think as 20-something year-olds it’s really easy to be selfish and really hard to be selfless, and I think that college students who are going through a huge transitional period in their lives — they’re dealing with a lot more pressure than people probably should deal with in their early 20s. The fact that we can take time from away from ourselves and give to something so incredibly important, so deserving just boggles my mind and it makes me proud to be a part of this organization and to do my part in making this run for those families and those kids, I’ll do anything I can to help. I THON because I think pediatric cancer is so awful and nobody deserves to go through it, and if I can play a small role — whether it’s making the line dance for dancers to do so they can stand on their feet for a little bit longer for their THON families, then that’s my role and I’ll do the best I can so the dancers can be there for the kids.
OS: As per OS tradition, if you could be a dinosaur, which one would you be and why?
JM: I don’t know they exact name of the dinosaur, but I would be Petrie from “The Land Before Time.”