Each of the 703 dancers has his or her own unique path to spending 46 hours on the floor. Life-long THON-goers, former Four Diamonds children, and even just students who fell in love with the event through their four years. One of the more unique paths comes directly through THON — certain captains without committees have the opportunity to dance, giving them a unique insider perspective on dancing.
Meet John Michael Oleska and Molly Nelson, two Special Events captains in charge of THON’s Family Carnival and 5K respectively. Because both events take place well before THON weekend comes around, these positions allow for the captains to dance if they so choose.
“I knew I wanted to dance this year and be a captain, so I looked for captain positions you were able to dance in,” Oleska said. “I was a THON chair for my organization (Phi Chi Theta) and I’ve also been on DR for the past three years so I knew that I still wanted to be a part of THON with my org, and with a committee, and I knew senior year I didn’t want to be just a committee member, I wanted to be a captain. It was just kind of the next step for me.”
For Nelson, the decision to dance wasn’t as clear, but after three years on a committee, she knew she wanted a larger role in THON.
“When SE had the option to dance, I knew I wanted to at least have the option, but to me dancing and being a captain would be kind of the best of both worlds,” she said. “I didn’t decide until the start of the fall semester that I wanted to dance when my friend asked if I wanted to try to independent dance with her, and I just decided to try.”
For both, the support of other captains has been a big help so far this weekend, and having the experience of being involved with the past three THONs hasn’t hurt either.
“It helps having more friends on the floor, I’ll be with my org and then if I want a break I’ll find Molly or one of our other co-captains and hang out with them,” Oleska said. “It helps you stay busy during the weekend.”
“Knowing that (the other captains) will always be there for you is really helpful,” Nelson said. “Being involved since freshman year helps to just prepare yourself for the weekend, mentally.”
Of course, just because you’re connected to other captains and on the inside of THON doesn’t mean you’re not prone to surprises. Unarguably the biggest surprise of the weekend so far, the sighting of Joe Jonas and an eventual show from he and DNCE, was kept a perfect secret from the two, making them no different from anyone else at the BJC.
“My friend had made a joke saying Joe Jonas was coming let’s go to the front… but then he said he was just kidding and ten minutes later, DNCE came,” Oleska said. “We probably should have gone to the front.”
For both dancers, their time as captains has been defined by the strong bonds and relationships they’ve developed with fellow SE captains. Both Oleska and Nelson emphasized the importance of being close with the people you’re working with to make the events run as smoothly as possible.
“I’ve grown so close with my other captains, I’ve know them for less than a year, and they’re already my best friends, it’s crazy,” Nelson said. “It’s almost unbelievable how close you can get working together for such a short time.”
“I had a direct co-captain, Rachel, and we both planned family carnival, and building a relationship, putting on an event, it’s you two depending on each other to get everything done to make that event not only be a success, but better than the last year.” Oleska said. “Another huge part is building relationships with you other co-captains, because special events is special since each of us has our own event, and you want to support everyone else’s event so they can help support your event.”
Even for two THON veterans, the weekend holds a few surprises as dancers. While neither were really surprised by any of the events having been involved before, both agreed that the overall feeling of being a dancer, and the outpouring of support from friendswere more than they imagined.
“I didn’t expect to have so much support because a lot of my friends that don’t go here don’t really understand THON, but they took the time to travel up here and see it for themselves, and it’s been awesome.” Nelson said.
“I’ve been on DR so you kind of know when everything’s coming, but I didn’t expect the whole feeling of the event to change. I’ve put my hands up for the human tunnel the last three years, but walking through it was just the coolest thing to see all those people line up, and realize why you’re really here,” Oleska said. “I wasn’t expecting it to feel so different.”
So far, both dancers are keeping their energy levels fairly high as THON continues on. Oleska attributes his energy to visits from his family earlier in the day, while Nelson admitted that, though her energy had been low, this interview helped her get back into the swing of things (happy to help, Molly!).