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10 Questions With THON 2022 Line Dance Leader Jess Romito

The line dance is undeniably one of the most exciting parts of THON Weekend. No matter how many times we hear it or how tired you may be, Dancer Relations captains never fail to hype up the Bryce Jordan Center.

With so much happening this past year, the THON 2022 line dance was jam-packed with fun dance moves and lyrics. If you don’t still randomly yell, “What the heck are NFTs?”, you’re lying.

This year, Dancer Wellness captain Jess Romito, a senior studying psychology, led the line dance. We sat down with her to learn more about the line dance’s creation and her experience with THON over the past four years.

Onward State: How did you get involved in THON?

Jess Romito: When I was looking at and visiting Penn State, they were holding a little event in the hotel I was staying in. I’m from New Jersey, so nowhere near a Mini-THON location. My mom and I went, and it ended up being an information session about THON. We thought it was so amazing. I ended up coming to Penn State, and when I got here, I saw someone submit their THON committee member application and post it on their story. I looked into it and went from there. Freshman and sophomore years, I was on Rules and Regulations, which was super fun. Junior year, I was on Donor and Alumni Relations. It’s been fun to get new committee experiences.

OS: If you could be a captain on any other committee, what committee would you choose and why?

JR: Through my positions, I’ve been able to work with Public Relations and Entertainment committees a lot. I think trying something there after seeing a little bit more about what they do would be really cool.

OS: How long did it take you and your fellow Dancer Relations captains to write and choreograph the line dance?

JR: It’s pretty much a year-long effort. Throughout the year, we start music submissions, so everyone will submit music weekly to use for our background songs. Then, we come up with ideas as things happen. We keep a running document of what’s going on in the world and at Penn State.

This prepares us for the second semester. In the first few weeks, we spend time writing it, and then Caroline O’Rourke (the Dancer Relations director) and I get dance moves from everyone and put it all together to see what works where. A couple of other captains will mix the music. We meet with Public Relations after everything is finished, and then they create the video. It’s a lot of fun!

OS: What is your favorite line dance lyric?

JR: That’s a really tricky question. I would say the THON verse. I can’t pick one part, but the THON verse itself is just really special, from recapping some events of the year and telling the Four Diamonds story the best way that we could. The ending [THON is home, lives in our hearts // Endless in the love we spark] wraps the whole line dance together and comes full circle from the beginning. It shows the message that THON is not a place or a weekend, [and] it really is that lifelong connection. I think ending the line dance with that was a good way to keep people motivated throughout the weekend and remember why we’re here.

OS: Were there any Penn State or pop culture events that you wanted to include but couldn’t fit?

JR: Yes. There is so much that happens throughout the year, but I would say that the DR captains really collaborated and used our best judgment of what we thought was the most relevant to everybody watching. I wouldn’t really say there’s anything I wish would have been in it, because we can’t have an hour-long line dance where we could recap everything.

OS: With leading a line dance every hour, how were you able to get any sleep during the weekend?

JR: Just like every other captain, we have shifts that we’re on. For me, I just needed to make sure that mentally I was doing well, checking with my commitee members, and fellow captains. I could take the time off-shift to do anything I needed to take care of myself. When I was off-shift, four of my alternates were able to lead the line dance.

OS: Along with leading the line dance, what are your other responsibilities as a Dancer Relations captain?

JR: I have to shout out my committee. Throughout the year, I lead a commitee which was one of my main responsibilities. Making sure they were prepared and educated about Dancer Relations, THON, and our mission in general took up a decent amount of my time. I also did the Dancer Wellness packet, with our EMS captains, including information about mental and physical wellness and medical information that the dancers need, so we created and distributed that. I also held the Dancer Wellness event for all the Dancer Relations committee members to go over EMS information, stretching, and mental wellness information that they need to really help care for their dancers. As a Dancer Relations captain in general, we help each other out, attend a bunch of events, and do dancer registration.

OS: What is your favorite THON memory?

JR: That’s so difficult because it’s four years of my life that isn’t just a weekend. It’s the whole year, so how do you pick from four years of memories? It’s kind of basic, but coming into THON the first time as a freshman was so incredible. You can prepare and talk about it and see pictures as much as you want, but the moment you walk into that weekend is incredible.

Also, getting my committee for the first time this year and seeing them in the classroom together is a favorite memory. It’s weird, because you can see 25 people who don’t know each other but were truly picked for a reason. So, seeing them all sit together for the first time awkwardly meeting each other and throughout the year watching that turn into such a beautiful family — I will cherish that forever. I really love them.

OS: Why do you THON?

JR: I knew I wanted to support our families. It has truly blossomed into such a more meaningful feeling to me after getting to meet families, seeing their stories every week, and hearing how strong they are in every single way. Learning about all of their stories, and the angels, too, is exactly why I THON and plan to continue to be involved as an alumna.

OS: Per Onward State tradition, if you could be a dinosaur, what dinosaur would you be and why?

JR: I don’t have extensive knowledge of dinosaurs, but I do know that the stegosaurus is known as pretty gentle and nice. When it comes down to it, they can be a little strong-willed and determined, so I would say a stegosaurus.

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About the Author

Haylee Yocum

Haylee is a senior studying immunology and infectious disease. She is from Mifflintown, PA, a tiny town south of State College. She is fueled by dangerous amounts of caffeine and dreams of smashing the patriarchy. Any questions or discussion about Taylor Swift’s best songs can be directed to @hayleeq8 on Twitter or emailed to [email protected]

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