Dance Marathon 2013: Block 5 recap

Kaitlyn Jakola, Editor in chief

Not quite halfway through DM, dancers finally got a chance to sit down at the start of Block 5. During the 30-minute reprieve, dancers enjoyed breakfast while Comedy Forum, Fusion Dance Company and the University drum line provided entertainment.

After the performances, “Heroes” actor Greg Grunberg appeared in a celebrity video to applaud participants’ efforts for epilepsy research. Grunberg’s 16-year-old son is epileptic, he said.

“This is very cool what you guys are doing, and I just want to implore you, don’t stop dancing.” Grunberg said. “For the love of god, don’t stop!”

Emcee Demetri Elias then took the stage dressed as the Disney movie character Aladdin to introduce the block’s theme, “Mickey Mouse Club.” Elias and fellow emcee Chloe Woodhouse tried to rouse dancers from their post-meal lethargy as “Oops, I Did It Again” by former Mouseketeer Britney Spears played over the speakers.

The block’s kid-friendly theme — marking the end of the lockdown period — did not stop the Food Committee from shaking their “jelly” to Destiny’s Child’s “Bootylicious.”

“We saw you guys twerk; we know you can do it!” Woodhouse said, encouraging DM participants to get in on the fun.

Two more celebrity videos showed support from actors Chris Tucker and Alice Eve and director David O. Russell as well as the cast of MTV’s “The Buried Life.”

But the most inspiring message of the block came from Belicia Espinal, a South Side teenager who explained the effects of the seizures she’s had since brain surgery she underwent at age three left scar tissue in her brain. Espinal described the constant fear of seizure, which kept her sleeping in her mother’s bed every night and rarely doing things unaccompanied. When she learned about the Danny Did Foundation last fall, she said, she was introduced to a device called the SmartWatch, which detects seizures in the wearer and alerts emergency contacts for help.

Since receiving a SmartWatch, Espinal said, she has found “independence.” She participates in after-school activities, spends time alone with her friends and anticipates going away for college after high school — all things she was formerly unable to do without close supervision. Espinal credited Danny’s story and the foundation for improving her life.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Danny,” she said. “Danny enjoyed his life, and now I have the opportunity to do so, as well.”

Elias took the opportunity to remind participants that people like Espinal were the reason they were dancing.

“This is why you dance,” he said. “You guys are tired right now, but keep dancing. Dance because you’re saving lives.”

At the end of the block, the Finance Committee returned to the stage to unveil the next fundraising marker. By the time the Wildcats captured the trophy at the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl, DM had raised $121,102.

Dancers returned for Block 6, “British Invasion,” at 10:00 a.m.

— Kaitlyn Jakola