5 Questions You Probably Have About What It’s Like to Be a THON Dancer

Photo by Mitchell Valentin

Each year, over 700 dedicated dancers stand up (literally) against cancer, dancing for 46 hours without sitting down or sleeping. As most Penn State students know, THON is Penn State’s Panhellenic Dance Marathon, and it’s the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. Over the two days, thousands of students gather together to support their fellow dancers in the Bryce Jordan Center, all in the hopes of defeating childhood cancer once and for all.

But if you’re new to campus, or if you’re not necessarily “in the know” with how THON works, you may have a few questions as to how the dancers do what they do for so long, or what it’s like to contribute to THON in this way.

1. Why 46 hours?

It’s fair to believe that 46 hours is a strange number. Why not 24 hours? Why not 48? It turns out THON actually did used to be 48 hours, but due to the dance marathon moving from Rec Hall to the BJC, two hours needed to be shaved off to accommodate the men’s basketball team sharing the space.

2. How do you get the opportunity to be a dancer?

Anyone who is a student at Penn State has the opportunity to apply to dance independently. Once registered, the opportunity of dancing in THON runs off a lottery system based off fundraising. The more money you raise, the better your chances are of being selected for this great Penn State honor.

3. How do dancers “keep it together” to last 46 hours of dancing?

Let’s be real here … 46 hours is a long time to be up an moving. Keeping dancers positive and mentally stable plays a huge role in the THON experience, not only for the dancer themselves, but for the atmosphere of the BJC as a whole. Each dancer needs all the help they can get, and that’s where Dancer Relations committee members step in. DRCM’s aid their dancers throughout the long weekend, providing them with distractions, food and water, encouragement or anything else they could need.

4. Are there any perks to being a THON dancer?

Again, motivation plays a huge role here. In order to keep dancers pumped up throughout the weekend, small perks throughout the weekend are granted. Small moments like each dancer being able to request a song, dancer mail, cool merchandise and even making a wish to their DRCM to possibly grant really help dancers push through their breaking points throughout the weekend.

5. How do dancers keep there energy up/eat?

Volunteers ensure that dancers are hydrated, fed and ready to dance the full 46 hours. Meals are provided to the dancers every few hours to keep the energy up and their moral high. And let’s not forget how vital hydration is here — time is designated for dancers to take a drink break, ensuring no dehydration in the BJC.


THON Through the R&R Perspective

What DRCM’s Need For Their Dancer

THON Committees 101

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