Dance Marathon adds new leadership positions, accessibility changes

The 25th Dance Marathon brings accessibility improvements and two new director positions.


Nick Rohlman

Dancers dance to Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” during Dance Marathon at the Iowa Memorial Union on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018.

Andy Mitchell, News Reporter

For a quarter-century, the University of Iowa Dance Marathon has raised money for children in need and brought students and other community members together through the power of dance. Even after 25 years, there are still cracks and oversights to address, and this has been one of the main focuses for Dance Marathon 25, whose Big Event starts on Friday.

During the 2018-19 school year, Dance Marathon added two major positions at the director level and set new goals for accessibility, Dance Marathon public relations Chair Lillian Boenker said. The accessibility goals were in the interest of disabilities both mental and physical.

Some of these changes to the Big Event include stage ramps and a refocus of the messaging from “Stand up for 24 hours” to “Stand up for 24 hours if you’re able.” The main event will also include an accommodations room for dancers who would find themselves unable to complete the full marathon on their feet.

“I just think it’s really important that this year they put a lot of emphasis on self-care and mental health as someone who suffers from mental illness myself,” Boenker said.

She said the Big Event will also feature new attractions, including an escape room and an extended silent disco.

“We set goals this year, and a mission statement of each of us can shape our own impact [on Dance Marathon],” Boenker said. “And I think we’ve done a real good job.”

The new major positions added by Dance Marathon are an outreach director and a campus relations director. The outreach director is tasked with working with faculty and alumni and assisting in coordinating smaller Dance Marathons in local K-12 schools. The campus relations director  is designed to work with other student organizations on campus and get them included.

Joshua Housing
The amount of money raised is revealed during the 24th hour of the 23rd Dance Marathon in the Main Ballroom of the Iowa Memorial Union on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. This year UIDM raised $2,572,130.23.

The campus outreach director, UI senior Sierra Jones, said building the position from the ground up has been exciting and a step in the right direction, but there also has been a lot of pressure to get things right. Jones, who served on the Dance Marathon leadership team for the past two years, said it helped prepare her for the new position.

Jones described the process of making new additions to the Big Event as a result of surveys and roundtables with members of the UI community.

RELATED: Dance Marathon 24 shatters fundraising records, raising more than $3 million

UI student Abby Ling is going into her second year of Dance Marathon, hooked after joining last year with encouragement from her sorority. She said she sees the changes by the executive team as a positive not only for this year but for the years to come.

“It means a lot to other people who might have these disabilities,” Ling said. “They’re making a wider range of people feel welcome.”

The efforts to get more students involved would be a real benefit for Dance Marathon, she said.

Jones said one of Campus Outreach’s missions is to bring in more student organizations and to focus on more than just money.

“Moving forward, I see [Dance Marathon] a bigger part of what it means to be a Hawkeye,” Jones said.