The THON Line Dance is always highly anticipated by the Penn State community. This year was no different. As the whole world faced a harsh and unprecedented year, it seemed impossible for the THON 2021 Line Dance to compare to those of previous years. Once Dancer Wellness Captain Samantha Mackey hit the stage on Friday night, it was clear that this Line Dance would defy the odds and be one for the books.
VALLEY got the chance to virtually interview junior Dancer Relations Captain Lauren Holinger, who — along with her fellow DR Captains — assisted in the creation and execution of this year’s Line Dance.
“As DR Captains, we are responsible for selecting music, topics that go into the dance, creating the lyrics and creating the dance moves,” Holinger says.
Traditionally, the Line Dance is a culmination of lively music, innovative lyrics and energetic dance moves.
“We want to make sure that dancers are moving and stretching every part of their body without even realizing it,” Holinger says.
However, the Line Dance isn’t just about dancing and stretching. Arguably, the most important part is the well-thought-out lyrics embedded into the songs.
“We want to make sure we highlight some of the most important things that have happened in the past year, and highlight some key events and things that have happened within Penn State’s culture in the past year,” Holinger says.
From lyrics that mentioned the bear spotted on campus last semester to lyrics that honored the Black Lives Matter movement, the Dancer Relations team thought of everything. The majority of 2020 was summed up in lyrics, including references to the closing of the beloved downtown restaurant, Baby’s, to the election of President Joe Biden, the bachelorette switch-up and the Vogue cover featuring Harry Styles.
A challenge that the captains inevitably faced was how to include lyrics that spoke on the more dismal parts of the past year.
“Obviously this year has struck everyone everywhere with the coronavirus pandemic, and we were questioning for a while how we wanted to speak about that in the Line Dance,” Holinger says. “I am most proud of the DR committee’s ability to frame so many world events … that have had a largely negative impact on the world in a way that is uplifting and inspiring.”
There is a science to the way that the Line Dance is created. The format includes: an intro, a verse about Penn State, a chorus, a verse about world events, a second chorus, a verse about pop culture, a dance break and a final verse about THON.
“The way we create it is we go verse by verse, brainstorm the most relevant, popular things that have gone on and try to formulate a way to communicate all of those things in a creative and fun way,” Holinger says.
Holinger says that her favorite part of the Line Dance, besides the big dance break (of course), is the THON verse and the incorporation of angels in the lyrics, “With our angels, journey guided.”
“I’m really happy that we were able to include a nice shoutout to our angels that obviously guide all of our journeys,” Holinger says.
The work didn’t stop when the lyrics were finished. Holinger and everyone else involved in the Line Dance committed extensive time to perfecting the dance before THON.
“After winter break, we came back to school and had our Line Dance retreat, which is when the Line Dance is created,” Holinger says. “We have two-hour practices twice a week, every week until THON. So, it’s been about a month of four hours of practice every week.”
Holinger is especially proud of all that the Dancer Relations committee has accomplished in the very unique circumstances they faced.
“This year all of our practices were held via Zoom,” Holinger says. “I’m impressed with how well everyone knows it, and it just speaks to the dedication and the amount of time and care that the DR Captains have for the Line Dance.”
Everything was worth it, though, for the experience of playing a role in one of the most iconic parts of THON.
“Even in this year where everything is different, THON 2021 is still going to be remembered by our Line Dance. It’s really cool to be a part of a project that means so much to thousands of people,” Holinger says.
The Line Dance is not the only rewarding part about being a Dancer Relations Captain. Holinger led a committee in the months leading up to THON, helping them navigate the role of a Dancer Relations committee member.
“I have been so blessed with 23 of the most incredible people ever. In a year that’s been so difficult for so many people, they’ve been my saving grace and I feel so lucky to be able to lead them and to feel their love,” Holinger says.
The THON 2021 Line Dance rose above what was expected of it and proved just what 2021 THON is all about.
“[The Line Dance] highlights all of the hardships we’ve been through and explains how it has made us stronger, which is exactly what dancers are doing right now. They’re facing a situation and an environment they never would’ve imagined they would dance in, but they’re still here,” Holinger says.
As a full circle incorporation of the THON 2021 theme, “Rise and Unify,” the last two lines of lyrics are: “With our angels, journey guided. Stand together, undivided. Past the clouds and through the sky, rising up to unify.”
“I think is a beautiful tribute to the theme and to the logo; it ties it all together so nicely,” Holinger says. “It speaks to the idea that we’re stronger than any adversity that we’ve faced as a community and this weekend is a perfect demonstration of how the THON community is able to rise above everything for the cause that we so deeply care about.”
Holinger hopes that the THON 2021 Line Dance will inspire people to do just as the theme encourages: to rise up and unify.