They told me that packing for the 24 Hour Cancer Dance-a-thon would be something like getting ready for a summer camp. I brought 12 t-shirts, one for every couple of hours and I was gonna leave my laptop at home. The 24 Hour Fitness Ultrasport didn't have wireless, so I would just have to rough it.
Here's the run-down: hundreds of participants volunteer for the weekend to go to a giant party. Before they come to the party, they ask their friends and family for donations, the proceeds of which will go to The City of Hope. In exchange for the donations, the participants promise that they and/or their team members will be on the dance floor for the entire duration. Live bands, contests, dance classes, great company - it's not a bad deal in the least. In past years, the event has raised an annual average of over $100,000 to benefit cancer research. So it's a giant party that helps to make good things happen.
I was the leader of Team Old School. The team had originally been made up of dancers who liked classic jazz music and who were inspired by vintage dance footage. This year, I invited some of my students to join the team. The more bodies the better. At the outset of the event, we had over a dozen members. We were planning a bake sale, and I made sure to remind everyone that a bathing suit makes you that much more welcome in the jacuzzi.
About the bake sale, Jen Hollywood is famous for her cupcakes (she'd bring Caramel Mocha and Chai spice, as well as a secret stash just for the team), at least in our friendly circles. I'm a ribbon winning pie-maker (I was experimenting with Kiss my Buttermilk again and had the idea to make Ginger Apple pie, modified from this recipe) and Karin Pleasant would pitch in with cookies and brownies.
When we got there, we pulled a spot between The Cult of the Eye and the Swingin' Clientele. We also had a spot next to the free water and the restroom, so go Team Old School! The other teams made up for our lack of youthful enthusiasm. Most of the folks that I spoke to seemed a little perplexed about the Cult, but they seem like fun folks. I heard that they have a party called Waffles of the Damned, where they get together for waffles and zombie movies.
Laurinda Steinmeyer brought our tent set-up. I hadn't met her before but she'd been dancing in Orange County since the early 90s. She's one of the Disneyland generation - those dancers who learned at the weekly dance there. She had a ton of supplies, including our tent, chairs and tables. She also made our really cool Team Old School sign, including some required information about skin cancer and the team motto:
Team Old School - It's like New School, but Old.
Tise Chao is a founding member of the team. I believe she dates back to The Derby, like I do. We like to tell the same in-jokes back and forth, about whipped cream and beef & broccoli.
Todd, Tise, Rachel and Jonathan
Thanks to Tise Chao for this pic
One of my favorite bands had the marquis spot for the weekend. Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five with Hilary Alexander. These cats know swing!
Jen Hollywood (yes, that's her real name) drove in from Santa Barbara to participate in the event. She's comes from that late 90s Santa Barbara crowd, I think. I've known her since one of the Laughlin bus trips back in the day. She still comes down to dance in Los Angeles from time to time.
A few of the other members of Team Old School, including some students of mine from my class at LindyGroove: Ashley Mee, Mike Wolfe, Kirsten Welge and Jorge Estrada.
There were a ton of classes scheduled that weekend. It was good having the students on the team, because they were on the floor when we old fogies were restin'. That Jorge was our team madman. I think there was barely a moment when he wasn't on the floor. He was definitely doing a lot of the heavy lifting for our team, being on the floor when everyone else was asleep.
In the meantime, I spent a lot of time conserving my energy. If by conserving my energy I mean hanging out with cute girls.
Did I mention dance contests? There were several that weekend.
Video by Roxie1589This Jack and Jill was the first contest of the weekend. For the non-dancers reading a Jack and Jill is a contest in which dancers are partnered up randomly. In the footage above, I'm dancing with little Morgan, a new dancer from the inland empire who was probably the youngest participant at the event. There were plenty of babies around, but mostly they weren't working too hard.
Wait a second. Matt from the Cult of the Eye was selling a minute worth of holding his baby for a buck. That little cultist had to have been the youngest one there!
Bernard of Hollywood and Karin Pleasant represented our team in another contest that night. I didn't see it, but apparently they won a hundred bucks for our team. I think I might have been in the jacuzzi when that happened. Congratulations to Bernard and Karin!
Here's a video with Bernard and Karin in the semi-finals:
video by Matt Jenkins
Here's clip from one of the jams that weekend. I think this is around 1 in the morning, but who can remember?
Video by Matt Jenkins
This is what happens when you dance in the jams: pretty girls spooning. That's just a lesson for you non-dancer folk: dancing is fun and mental.
The Atomic Cherry Bombs:
Video provided by Shesha Marvin
At 6am I made a parking trip. What our team does is we collect all of the team parking stubs and then send out one person every four hours to re-park and get new tickets. This means that we can park for free at the event and it also gets us out of the building in case someone's feels like getting outside. I always forget that the parking lot is open access after midnight, so we did this for several hours without need. But better than having to explain the plan to someone in the wee hours of the morning.
Then there was the only class I took that weekend. I hadn't heard of Aubri Siebert before, but she did the annual wake-up class, which had previously been done by Mikey Pedroza. She taught a bright charleston routine and for a non-morning person was pretty much a charmer for the folks in the class. I'd take a class from her again in the future!
By the way, I brought pajamas but forgot to change. I did change between the wake-up class and later, but I haven't found any pics from those hours.
One of the perennial competitions at this event is the t-shirt customization contest. Every participant gets a shirt, but some very creative folks spend most of their time making their shirts their own. This year saw some of the fiercest competition to date, with designers making bringing in heavy equipment to make their elaborate creations.
Where were you at 6:30am on March 14th? This is where I was.
Video by Matt Jenkins
Danny Maika. I've known Danny since the early Memories days and he's really been putting some great tunes together. He did a set of mostly classic rock covers that were surprisingly danceable. One of the highlights of the weekend was his one man rendition of Don't Worry, Be Happy. He sold a bunch of CDs that day and they're definitely worth a listen.
By the time 2pm rolled around, I had had 15 non-consecutive minutes of sleep. The event raised close to $128,000 for the City of Hope. The Cult of the Eye really did their work, raising over $21,000 by themselves. That baby rental plan really worked out!
The two top team Old School earners were Karin Pleasant with $555 and and Mike Wolfe with $465. If we take into account the $100 that she earned with Bernard in that contest, she's easily past $600. Good work and congratulations to Team Old School!
At the closing ceremony every year I get teary-eyed. Shesha and Nikki presented the ceremonial check. Then, much like summer camp, it was time to clean up and go home.
There's still time to donate to the event, if you're reading this before the end of March 2009. Since the event ended the totals have been upped past $130,000. Please visit www.danceathon.org for more information.