DM registers record number of new dancers

Christina Salter

Dance Marathon 2009 registered more than 1,000 students on Monday and Tuesday. If students follow through with their pledges, there will be a record number of dancers in the 30-hour fundraiser come March.

For the second year in a row, DM did not set a cap for registrations. A record 750 students danced last year, exceeding the capacity of DM’s regular location, the Louis Room in Norris University Center. Last year, DM added outdoor space in a heated tent. The group has yet to choose a venue for this year’s event, said DM executive co-chairwoman Liz Banks, adding that the decision will be based on fire codes and capacity.

Many student groups signed up this year that hadn’t participated before, including the Reformed University Fellowship, ReFresH Dance Crew, South Asian Student Alliance and the Filipino Student Association, Banks said. She said that a goal for this year was to reach out to other parts of campus, and DM made a “big push” to contact student groups.

DM is also emphasizing their ambassador program this year, which will connect dancers with 11 children from their primary beneficiary group, Project Kindle. Dancers will probably have the chance to meet the kids when they visit campus in November, Banks said.

Project Kindle helps families affected by HIV and AIDS by offering a summer camp for children, a peer-to-peer speakers bureau, a scholarship program and an education initiative.

Members of DM’s exec board visited Project Kindle’s camp this summer to meet the children they serve. Banks said they were stunned by what the kids have to go through, especially those infected with the HIV or AIDS virus.

“It’s a secret they have to keep, and camp gives them the opportunity to go out and be themselves,” she said.

DM wants to keep dancer retention rates higher this year and give dancers more ways to get involved before the weekend of dancing, finance committee co-chairman Peter Koelsch said. Each dancer will have another DM liaison in addition to their finance liaison, who will keep them informed about chances to interact with Project Kindle kids and support them throughout the process.

“Money’s great, but we really want people to have a connection with the beneficiaries, and we really want people to get something out of the experience,” Banks said.

Jason Plautz danced as a freshman and signed up again this year as a senior. The Medill senior said DM is an “experience everyone should have the chance to do” and likes that now as many people as possible can dance.

“Freshman year, I just felt like the best person in the world afterwards, so I’m looking forward to that,” Plautz said.

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