Sights and sounds from a virtual THON

Story/Video posted February 21, 2021 in News, THON 2021 by Bellisario College of Communications

Even though the number of dancers was down 15 percent this year, THON still raised more than $10 million.
TWVtYmVycyBvZiB0aGUgQDQ2TGl2ZSBjcmV3IGpvaW4gb25lIG9mIHRoZSBsYXN0IFRIT04yMDIxIGxpbmUgZGFuY2VzIGZyb20gdGhlIG5lYXJseSB2YWNhbnQgZmxvb3Igb2YgdGhlIEJyeWNlIEpvcmRhbiBDZW50ZXIuMembers of the @46Live crew join one of the last THON2021 line dances from the nearly vacant floor of the Bryce Jordan Center. Photo by @46Live

In recent years the student-run philathropy THON had to institute a ticketing policy to regulate the crush of spectators trying to crowd into the Bryce Jordan Center to view the 46-hour dance marathon live. The policy was instituted to prevent long lines of people waiting outisde in the cold until someone inside would leave because the building was constantly filled to maximum capacity.

That's not a problem this year. There's no ticketing, no long lines, no crowd. In fact, there aren't any dancers in the bulding. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, THON 2021 is a virtual event.

The cavernous BJC has the familiar diamond-shaped THON stage, lights, cameras and a skeleton crew producing live music and entertainment segments for the streaming video audience.  The audience is life-size photos on cardboard cutouts that were installed last week. (They will stay at the BJC to "view" basketball games after THON is over.) The video production work is being done by volunteers working for @46Live

Here's the scene inside the Bryce Jordan Center:



Students participating in THON this year are tucked away in isolated locations in order to follow THON's COVID-19 guidelines. Occasionally a group would surface in a public location, only to disappear if the crowd got too big.



Still moving after many, many hours, these dancers do one of the last line dances of THON 2021.



These dancers are fired up going into the final four hours of THON



A post shared by @psu.shea


In the final hours of THON a dancer's friends take to Tik Tok to help her to keep her energy up.



The Slides of Strength is a popular event that in a "normal" year results in THON dancers skidding across the floor of the BJC on baby powder-covered sheets of plastic. Women engineers found a way to adapt the event in a year when they couldn't be indoors.



SATURDAY — Feb. 20

Penn State cheerleaders stay on brand and generate a lot of energy as they dance to the THON livestream.


Dancers discuss the virtual THON experience




When THON is at the Bryce Jordan Center there is an entire support team to help dancers deal with aches and pains. In virtual THON, dancers have to improvise.



A post shared by Alli Dowe (@allidowespjs)


Break time is easier when dancers don't have to pass in and out of event security.



A post shared by Alli Dowe (@allidowespjs)


Students gathered at the HUB as the livecast began for the day to try their skill at doing the traditional line dance. 



Dancers were asked to rest overnight during the virtual event.



A post shared by @psu.shea


FRIDAY — Feb. 19

The traditional, official start of THON happens when the dancers stand up and file onto the main floor of the Bryce Jordan Center. This year dancers stood up in apartments, dorm rooms and rental bed & breakfast units while watching the live stream of the event on laptops and televisions. 

For dancer Emma Creamer, it began like this




About the Contributors

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Shea Sugrue

Senior / Journalism

As a Senior pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in International Studies, I have built a foundation that has allowed me to be comfortable in environments with strict and succinct deadlines as well as those that are creative and innovative.

I pride myself in the achievements and knowledge that I have gained through my former and current job positions, internships, and opportunities at Penn State. I am confident that I will be a resource in any setting that I am placed in due to my passion for new experiences and my interest in keeping up with today’s developing media environment.

I have a thorough background in Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Premier Pro, Excel, Microsoft Office, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Google Applications.

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Emma Creamer

Senior / Broadcast Journalism

After graduation, I hope to work for a large news company writing and producing stories. During my time at Penn State, I have created content for both print and broadcast clubs such as VALLEY Magazine and PSNtv. My sophomore year, I was fortunate enough to get a communications internship at Penske Truck Leasing where I got to help plan PR campaigns and aid in creating graphics. In the fall, I will be attending NUI-Galway to get my MA in Global Media and Communication.

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Xiaohua Li

Senior / Journalism

As a student journalist, my passion for writing and curiosity about the world around me has been the foundation for my journalistic work. Academically, I put everything I have into each piece I work on, and - whether it be mathematical, artistic, or journalistic - I give it my all. Previously, I had internships in various positions in both the television and newspaper industries. I am interested in pursuing a career in media, law, and politics.

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Andy Kuros

Senior / Broadcast Journalism

As someone with a background in both writing, camera work, and live production, I’m looking to go into the music and hip-hop industries as a journalist or videographer. I truly have a passion for both music and creating content, and I’m looking to mix the two into a career.

My skillset includes AP styled writing on deadline, including long-form and human interest pieces, video editing and post-production work, and knowledge of camera equipment and studio broadcasting equipment.

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Lily LaRegina

Junior / Photojournalism

Lily is a Photojournalism student minoring in Spanish, Sociology, and Global and International Studies. As a visual journalist, she strives to continually improve her skills and produce creative, engaging, and meaningful work. She currently serves as photo editor at the independent student-run newspaper, The Daily Collegian, and as photo division student executive for the student media production agency, CommAgency. Lily interned with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s photo department in 2020 and in 2021 will cover the Tokyo Paralympic Games with Penn State in partnership with the Associated Press.

Alli Dowe's photo

Alli Dowe

Senior / Photojournalism

My goal is to continue documenting stories that ignite and inspire the community, while remaining truthful and present. I hope to find a job with a news organization or magazine that continues to encourage and strengthen my skills as a photographer, a storyteller, and a creative. Eventually, I would like to go back to school to receive my degree in Art Education, and educate children on the wonders and importance of photography.