Dance Marathon’s announcement that its famous philanthropic event, usually set entirely in Norris’ Louis Room, would this year include a second setting in a heated, outdoor pavilion dubbed “Club DM” makes sense on a practical level. The event usually hosts about 600 dancers, but the 2008 incarnation of DM has attracted the most registered participants in the group’s 34-year history (more than 750). Rotating dancers through a second station frees up room and provides comfort to cramped dancers.
But comfort isn’t the point of DM. Call me crazy, but, as a former DM dancer and someone who covered the bejesus out of the event last year, part of the event’s charm is being packed into one room with hundreds of other students trying to shimmy to “Toxic” while their bodies slowly give out. Not leaving the confines of Norris makes the whole ordeal more rewarding in the end: The revelation that you lasted 30 hours in the same room surviving off only pizza and hip-hop beats is a hell of an accomplishment. Club DM takes away that sense, forcing dancers into another room (one outside Norris for that matter) for up to three entire blocks. After all, the DM experience is literally about coming together to celebrate philanthropy.
Club DM likely exists because the group is worried they can’t stuff all these people in Louis Room. Fair enough, but 600 people never fills up the place. Based on my experience, there is always a large chunk of ground open near the back of the room. Why not just use that? DM isn’t about luxury — dancing for 30 hours straight isn’t a four-star vacation — so having a slightly-more-packed room isn’t going to make much of a difference. Heck, less floor space means fewer people will sit down, something DM officials always stop you from doing.
Overall, this is a trivial matter. DM raises money for great causes, and it doesn’t matter if people are dancing in Starbucks: Good has been done. But, making the world a better place isn’t what’s on the mind of an exhausted dancer midway through the event. The group shouldn’t rob dancers of a great tradition and experience, even if they have to rub shoulders a little more.