As a loud, vibrating bass pumped from the gym on the evening of Feb. 23, students united to dance for UCR’s second annual Dance Marathon fundraiser. The theme of the night was Gandhi’s quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Upon entering the Student Recreation Center’s huge basketball court, students were welcomed by balloons scattered on the floor, infinite darkness and a fluorescently lit DJ booth, setting a club-dance scene. The event benefited Guardian Scholars, a program for ambitious, college-bound students exiting foster care.

Many students were dressed to match in groups—for example, a group of hip hop dancers wore black sweatshirts and jeans. Many just dressed in funky attire (think wigs, glasses, suspenders, glittering hats and miscellaneous costumes).

Signs posted on wall read, “Keep on Dancing!” or “Dance 4 a Cause!”

The very first thing all participants were asked to do as a unit was the Harlem Shake. Starting the marathon off with a hilarious bang, mascot Norm the Navel was the first to begin moving. Once the beat dropped, all other participants flailed their bodies, threw balloons, got on each other’s shoulders and launched into random sporadic movements.

After the Harlem Shake, the freestyle dance music started playing and lasted all night long. The first DJ started with “Scream and Shout “ by will.i.am and Britney Spears followed by “Beauty and a Beat” by Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj. The DJ was skilled at picking catchy pop songs and transitioning them smoothly into EDM.

People dispersed after the Harlem Shake. The basketball court was split into two sections: a dance floor with the DJ and a general area set up similar to an arcade designated by a sign that said, “More fun this way!” This section consisted of multiple booths handing out tacos and refreshments, tables where students could play games to win prizes and games like “Dance Dance Revolution,” basketball hoops and even actual arcade game machines.

At first, the large space was reminiscent of all the pros and cons of a high school dance: wonderfully social but painfully awkward, judging by a few individuals with their backs to wall or standing shyly in the corner.

The crowd tripled in size around the middle of the 5 hour event. Scheduled for the duration of the marathon were a variety of smaller dance-related events such as performances, lectures and competitions. Additional festivities included line dancing and a performance by a Dhamaka dance group and April MacLean, owner of and instructor the Room to Dance studio in downtown Riverside. Competitions included a donut-eating contest as well as a “junk in the trunk” battle. The energy and the growing crowd’s excitement expanded as the night wore on.

True to its name, the Dance Marathon was also a waiting game testing student stamina. Dancers who grooved in front of the DJ ranged from shuffling show-offs to people step-touching in circular groups facing in towards each other. Meanwhile I honestly couldn’t help but feel like dancing. The fact that there were no chairs in the basketball court forced movement, interaction, wandering and most importantly, dancing.

The event cost $25 to register and participate unless participants were freshmen living in the dorms, which explained the majority of the population there being first-year students.

The reason for this according to Emily Nudge, Student Development Coordinator for University Honors and the advisor for Golden Key, is to hopefully have freshmen continue the UCR Dance Marathon as a tradition while they continue their education.

Joey Dhillon, a fourth-year history major and a resident advisor at Pentland Hills, said that about 6 of his residents attended. Dhillon saw a “good number of people there, more than I thought there would be,” although he also noticed that about more than half of the participants were freshmen. RAs made announcements prior to the event in hopes that freshmen would have the opportunity to explore campus events and find out what charitable causes speak to them.

Courtesy of Wesley Ng
Courtesy of Wesley Ng

Nudge, who was heavily involved in the logistics of the Dance Marathon, said that this year was an even bigger success having raised $17,400, $2,700 more than the $14,700 brought in last year. The event, which hosted around 300 participants, also had more people register, earlier. Nudge hopes that “year after year, the commitment will keep building.”

“We couldn’t do it without the help of all these other student orgs,” said Nudge in reference to all the group performances; the DJs spun for free and even the arcade machines were donated to save money.

“Dance (Ass)” by Big Sean blasted through the speakers, drawing students back in from the game area to the dance floor. The momentum and energy picked back up as the crowd grew as well. The next song played was Cali Swag District’s “Teach me how to Dougie” and so the students did dougie, enthusiastically.

At 7 p.m., Sandoval and and Interim Chancellor Jane Conoley spoke on stage. Sandoval took a moment to introduce and thank everyone involved while Conoley further explained the Guardian Scholars program and its mission.

Then a small group from 909’s much larger troupe performed. The handful of performers oozed with confidence and pumped out high-energy movements as the audience watched with wide-eyed silence and admiration.

Afterward, volunteers on stage handed out raffle prizes to keep student attention with gifts ranging from a 30-day membership to LA Fitness to a Starbucks gift card. The night took on a consistent cycle of students assembling in front of the DJ, watching performances or listening to speakers, then dispersing and dancing.

When I asked how long it usually took to plan a fundraiser like this, Emily Nudge answered with a laugh. “We’re starting [to plan] Dance Marathon 2014 on Monday.” Touching upon students being able to enjoy a philanthropic way to give to others, Nudge added, “And who wouldn’t want to dance?”