The weekend you have waited for all year has finally arrived. That’s right, it’s Dance Marathon, and you finally made it into the tent. You worked hard fundraising the money with all that canning, trivia and having your parents email their work friends … and now, it’s all paying off!
But then you get to Block Five. Your eyes are drooping. Your limbs are limp. You can’t tell if “Locked Out of Heaven” is playing for the fifth time in a row or if it really is that long. You don’t know whether you want to shower, sleep, eat or pee the most. You’re afraid to look down at your feet for fear they’ve fallen off your body.
At this point your REM-deprived, delirious brain thinks of only one option: find a way out.
Plenty of dancers have felt this way, but only a few brave souls have attempted it and even fewer have executed this great escape with success. McCormick senior Elliot Lazar exited the tent his freshman year around block four. He was sick before the event began but decided he wanted to dance through it.
“Going into it, I think I overestimated my abilities,” he said. “I was dancing for around eight hours and I didn’t really know how to pace myself, so I was pretty energetic. Probably around beginning of block three, maybe, I started getting pretty bad shoulder pain.”
When breakfast time hit, his shoulder pain and all-around fatigue got the best of him.
“I was utterly defeated,” he said. “I just went to one of the Dancer Relations people and said, ‘I’m gonna leave,’ and they made me sign a document, which I failed to read. So maybe I like, guaranteed them a portion of my future earnings or something. They had to drive me home, so I got driven back to Bobb.”
The Dancer Relations committee handles a small percentage of tent escapees every year, and Medill junior Arielle Miller, a member of the Dance Marathon executive board, said the committee is prepared to let students leave for two reasons. The first is becoming “really, really physically sick, to the point where it could endanger other dancers.”
“Sharing food and water bottles and everyone in close quarters it’s our priority to make sure that everyone who’s there is healthy and able to participate,” Miller said.
In other cases, dancers are allowed leave the tent and come back. If they are participating in school-sponsored events, they follow a check-in procedure upon departure and arrival, Miller explained, adding that “academics come first.”
Lazar is eager to dance again this year for his “one-and-a-halfth” time, saying he plans to “make amends for [his] earlier actions.”
“I really never have another opportunity to do this. I’ve got a lot of friends who are dancing and I’m friends with a lot of people on the DM exec board,” he said. “So I figure it’s gonna support them; it’s for a really great cause. I didn’t really see any reason why not to.”
Whether students are dancing to support their friends or dancing to support the cause, DM brings everyone together with a common goal in mind.
“There’s something about being in the tent together for 30 straight hours to feel the highs and lows,” Miller said, adding that the environment enables dancers to “sympathize with sometimes not having everything come so easy to you, which is what our heroes get. That’s why there’s power in staying for the 30 hours.”