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The Best Dancer Advice From Former THON Dancers

This weekend, THON will return to the Bryce Jordan Center for the first time since February 2020. Hundreds of students will dance for 46 hours in support of a cure for pediatric cancer.

As 667 students get set to dance for a cure, former THON dancers from years past offered their advice to make the most of a wholly unique weekend.

Kelsey — 2019 IDC Dancer

“Don’t ever deny piggyback rides. That was my first mistake as a dancer. I also kept some of my dancer mail unopened for the end of the 46 hours to read when I really needed it, from people who I knew wrote amazing and thoughtful letters. Foam rollers, tennis balls, foot rollers, and calf stretchers from Amazon saved my feet! I also used the edges/corners of walls. However, DO NOT TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF IN THE FIRST 24 HOURS. Your feet will be mad. There will be some hours when there is absolutely nothing going on and nobody coming down on the floor except DRCMs. Find something fun (coloring books, mini board games, cards) to do with other people. It will help pass the time when there is nobody on stage performing and nobody coming down on the floor.”

Morgan — 2021 College Republicans Dancer

“Enjoy every second of your experience because it’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Use the tennis balls to roll out your feet as often as you need. Stay positive, and don’t forget why you’re there!”

Rachel — 2020 Impact Dancer

“Music is a lifesaver! If you have negative thoughts in your head, drown them out with some jams. Also, bring a tennis ball, but don’t use it until you absolutely need it!”

Joe — 2011 Sigma Chi Dancer

“Your feet are the most important body parts to successfully thrive while dancing. There’s a reason that every Solider, Sailor, Marine, and Airman is taught how to keep their feet healthy on the first day of boot camp. Do not underestimate foot health.

Your feet, ankles, and calves will swell significantly. Ask someone to hold your feet while you perform a hand stand. It will help drain fluid through the lymphatic system. Just make sure you drink water afterward, and don’t fall on your face if you’re too tired to support your body with your arms! Massage roller sticks will also work.

Buy high quality compression socks (these are the secret of nurses, surgeons, and flight attendants everywhere who stand on their feet for hours). Do not exceed 20-30 mmHg of compression without medical advice.

Change your socks frequently, using powder to limit moisture.

If you can, frequently rotate between two pairs of shoes

Don’t step into the ice baths with more than 4 hours remaining. It feels amazing, but there are diminishing returns, and everything gets wet. Your arches will begin to drop. Consider hopping on the Dr. Scholls machine at CVS and finding the correct type of orthotic for your feet.

You need to survive until the end of hour 45. After the final hour, you’ll feel like you can for another 24.”

Maria — 2020 Axis Dancer

“I have a few pieces of advice. The most important thing I would say is that dancing in THON is much more of a mental test than a physical one. I had more moments when, mentally, I wanted to give up.

Take lots of pictures or have others take them. That is one thing I regret not doing. The whole weekend is a blur, so it would have been nice to have more photos to look back on.

Lastly, enjoy the moment. Dancing in THON was one of the best experiences I have ever had. Also, take advantage of the ice baths and hair washing. Good luck 2022 dancers – you are all absolutely amazing!”

Kayla – 2015 Mont Alto Dancer

“Bring lots of socks! Changing your socks makes you feel brand new. Also, do the activities. They distract from the pain even if they are silly. And dance like you’ve never danced before. Soak in every moment, this will change your life!”

Brittany – 2010 Hillel Dancer

“No matter how tempting and how much you feel you may need in the moment, DO NOT get the massages after the Pep Rally. I was immensely struggling, but that put me over the top of being tired. Yes, in the moment, it’s incredible, but you won’t even be at Mail Call yet, and it’s just not worth putting that moment of relaxation in front of the end goal.”

Trish — 1980 IDC Dancer

“Remember that THON is not about you. It never was. It’s not about competition. It’s not an extracurricular activity. Once you have had your time with THON, step aside and let the next group in to do their thing, but never stop giving. Everything about THON is about the kids and fighting this miserable disease. Keep it all in perspective and do it #FTK.”

Emily – 2018 IDC Dancer

“Take it all in. It’s a magical weekend and one that will be over before you know it. Take part in all the water gun fights, ball bouncing, and games. Do the line dance, talk to families, and give yourself some grace when you have a breakdown (because you will)…No one’s body is meant to stand for 46 hours, so let it happen and then go back to playing with the kids. FTK.”

Joe — 2019 Club Cross Country Dancer

“When it comes to packing, make sure you have something warm because it gets super cold down on the floor once you’re that sleep-deprived. Also, something softer for your feet like Crocs, slides, or slippers will really make a difference to change it up from your usual shoes. To keep things organized, I packed individual outfits into gallon-size Ziploc bags and had a large garbage bag to throw the dirty ones in.”

Dylan – 2019 IDC Dancer

“When feel like giving up, remember the kids you’re dancing for and think about what they’re going through. It doesn’t even compare to the problems that we face. Use them as motivation to power through the weekend.”


Editor’s note: Some responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

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About the Author

Caitlin Burns

Caitlin is a senior majoring in english. She watches "Dance Moms" from the beginning three times a year and thinks she's a barista because she can make one drink from Starbucks. She can usually be found taking a nap or being unreasonably angry at small inconveniences. You can contact her at [email protected]

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