Sights and sounds from a virtual THON
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.
SUNDAY — FEB. 21
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
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
Chloe Schaeffer @chlo_schaeffer dancing for the Penn State Cheerleading team is still doing the best she can — not in the @JordanCenter this year. #COMM481THON2021 #THON2021 pic.twitter.com/6m5BTSaW0P— xiaohua li (@xiaohuali9) February 20, 2021
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.
Break time is easier when dancers don't have to pass in and out of event security.
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.
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