Everyone knows the physical and emotional wall that one hits during THON. Whether your wall comes before the pep rally or before the final four no one knows the wall quite like the THON dancers. We asked the THON 2017 dancers what kept them going through the long 46 hours and how they stayed standing.
“Dancing in THON is obviously the most amazing thing and something I have been working towards for a while. What I didn’t expect was how I felt completely and utterly wasted without having had a single sip of alcohol.”
“My friends even saw how I started to do my ‘signature drunk dance.’ I also had the reaction time of a 100 year-old turtle. I hit a wall sometime around Sunday morning, probably around nine in the morning — my one friend on my pass had to leave. I walked her out (allegedly) but don’t remember walking from dancer storage to the pass-holder stairs. Our other dancer was struggling as well and I had to keep spraying her in the face with the water bottle to keep her awake. Another person on my pass list got to come down luckily because my DRCM had already left. She literally saved us both simply with her presence. We danced and she braided our hair, and when she had to leave I immediately burst in to tears (mind you I am not an emotional person and have not cried since the final four of last year’s THON). Seeing me cry for the first time in a year, we all began to cry and hug. It was a combination of our friend leaving, the fatigue, and just that fact that my senior year THON was coming to a close, and knowing that I love my friends so much and never wanted to leave them, leave THON, or leave Penn State.”
“I started getting tired around 7 a.m. on Sunday. But my DRCM started to pour cold water on me to make sure I was staying awake. My organization saved me because they where always dancing in the stands, holding up signs and writing funny sayings on the white board they had. I also had a water gun fight with them which was fun to because that made me keep going. Playing with the kids on the floor made me super excited and forget about the time because I would be running around and forgetting about the time.”
“Overall, my dancer experience was very easy. I only had 1.5 hours towards the end when I was in a tough place, but other than that I was totally fine. I hit a wall a couple times, usually around times I heard the floor pass system was getting messed up or backed up. The biggest thing that saved me was my amazing DRCM, Julia. She was always so energetic, hung out with me all weekend, and constantly kept me stretched out which was huge. Also, Future’s new album that came out the day THON started and was a big pick me up whenever I was down. I listened to it roughly five times.”
“I danced for the Penn State Outing Club. I began to hit a wall around 6 a.m. on Sunday. It started with random anxiety (probably the adrenaline my brain was releasing in order to keep me awake). After that, my crying phase began. I would cry anytime I saw someone I knew, and probably freaked out a couple of people. After that, I experienced about two hours of dissociation where I felt like everything was happening around me and I was not a part of it.”
“At the time, my roommate (a former dancer) and friend (a former R&R captain) were on the floor with me. They fully understood the delirium I was going through, as they had experienced it themselves. It really helped having them by my side to support me. This was the best piece of advice given to me by my former captain: ‘It is only a wall if you view it as one — View it as a gate, and eventually it will open.'”
“I did great until around 9:30 to 10:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. When I say I was doing great I mean I wasn’t at all tired, and only my feet hurt. A combination of a massage, and putting ice packs in my armpits kept me awake and relieved any pain I was feeling in my legs. My feet were still killing me though. The wall is all part of the experience. Break through it, and then go get in a water gun war, or dance until you hit it again. I was lucky and really only hit it once. I kept moving, drinking water, and stretching.”
“I think dancing was one of, if not the very best experiences I’ve had at Penn state. I had so much fun just hanging out with our THON family the Beavers, while recording things and taking pictures for our other THON family — named the Kellers — so they could enjoy some of it too. I loved walking into someone I knew every couple steps I took, and I wish I could relive the whole thing again and again. I hit a wall Friday into early Saturday. The music was slow, the hype from the beginning was wearing off and I needed to do something to get past it. There was another wall right before the finale — my feet had just started to hurt and I overheard several people complaining, then I started complaining when I saw the bathroom lines.”
“My biggest savior was our THON family, the Beavers. They made everything so much more fun, and they were genuinely looking to get us going again. They saved me at several points before the finale; Dustin’s sister Kristin started dancing a little before the finale when they visited, and then I started jumping, which got my blood going and got me ready to take on the next bit of standing around waiting for the finale. Then later, Patty, Dustin’s mom, saved me during family hour by forcing me to take some food and get myself going again, and that lasted me through the finale.”
Whether it was the stands, your THON family, mail, or a visit from a friend getting through the entire weekend is something to be incredibly proud of. THON dancers may have a support team behind them, but it’s the dancers who truly motivate themselves to stay standing.