NBN spoke with DM co-chairs Jenny Halpern and Ian Pappas during Block 7.
The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
NBN: What has the most rewarding part of this experience been?
Halpern: It’s just so incredible having over 1,000 people’s worth of energy in that tent with us.
Pappas: Another really rewarding aspect of this entire experience, especially a rewarding aspect of being in our position is that we get to see so many different aspects of the organization. Not only between the university and our organization, but also Gigi’s playhouse. What really has been great for me is being able to see the impact that we have had on Gigi’s playhouse. Not only tonight we’ll see a monetary impact, but also at the core of Gigi’s playhouse is a message of acceptance. Not only acceptance of people with Down Syndrome, but acceptance of people of all abilities. I think through our hero program and through personal connections that everyone has made to this beneficiary we can see that the acceptance is really at the forefront of this year and is something that we’re really proud of as well. Not only are we giving Gigi’s playhouse the financial backing to spread this message worldwide, but also we’re giving them a university and 1,000+ students who really care about their mission and their values as well.
Halpern: Being the first college campus to ever stand behind Gigi’s feels pretty huge for us just because it’s over 1,000 people who are going to now be passionate advocates for awareness and acceptance and that feels cool to be a part of.
NBN: What was your biggest fear going into these 30 hours?
Halpern: I feel like my biggest fear was just not knowing what to expect.
Halpern: There’s just no way to know what’s going to come out of these 30 hours exactly. Not only in numbers, but the 30 hours is all about rolling with the punches and just making everything work and trying to make dancers as happy and safe and healthy as we can.
Pappas: Even though this is going to our 120th hours of dancing, each Dance Marathon is so different and so unique and there’s just no way to know what’s going to happen. Obviously we’ve never been in this position before too so it’s an added layer.
NBN: How is DM different this year than in years past?
Halpern: One of the things that we’ve definitely focused on is giving dancers more frequent opportunities to give feedback about their experience. We’ve had surveys during various blocks that dancers are able to fill out, and every block that we’ve offered them we’ve run out of them which is definitely a good sign for us knowing that dancers are taking advantage of that opportunity to give feedback. We also are definitely utilizing our NUDM app more to give feedback and to key dancers into the experience and what’s happening, so we’ve been giving push notifications 10 minutes before bathroom lines close and before block changes so that they feel keyed into everything happening during the 30 hours.
Pappas: Something outside of the 30 hours that we were very excited to roll out was a new grant program for individuals who struggle to get to the $400 minimum to enter into the tend. We started fundraising in mid-May and have worked with the Office of Student Enrichment Services (they’re the people who disperse the funds) to reach as many people who wanted to be a part of the part of this community and as many people who wanted this quintessential Northwestern experience as possible. We didn’t want to let financial barriers be a barrier. Hopefully we can grow that program for future years.
NBN: What are you going to do with all your free time once these 30 hours are over?
Pappas: I don’t know, I’m going to have to find a hobby.
Halpern: I know. I am not ready at all for this to be over. I still have some schoolwork left. I think I need to start making a senior spring bucket list or something. Honestly I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know what my life looks like past 2 a.m.