|Jarod Salton, third year Advertising and Public Relations Major, dances with Clint Miller, a first year Psychology major, at the RIT Gay Alliance’s Dance-A-Thon, on Jan. 6.
The AIDS Benefit Dance-A-Thon started like most school dances. Music remixes blared and colored lights flashed on a dance floor filled with balloons. Around 50 participants stood around in a semi-circle, waiting for someone to start dancing. At 9 p.m., an hour after the event started, one couple finally took the floor, and soon others followed suit, dancing until after 1 a.m. The small groups that arrived together began to co-mingle, switching partners and forming circles to highlight dance solos. All forms of dancing were embraced, from club grinding, to break dancing, to more interpretive movements. Competition seemed to be an afterthought to interacting and having fun dancing with new people.
The Dance-A-Thon, held on Jan. 6, was sponsored by a variety of groups and organizations on campus, including the GLBT Center, The Center for Women & Gender, The BADER Group, ResLife, OUTspoken, RIT Gay Alliance and Spectrum, NTID’s Gay and Straight Alliance. The event’s proceeds went to AIDS Care, a Rochester-based organization that provides HIV/AIDS testing, prevention and outreach as well as care, nursing and health services. Dancers were identified by paper numbers pinned to their backs by small rainbow flags. Most of these were crinkled by the end of the night, and a few dancers removed them altogether.
“It was something different that we hadn’t done before. Something fun,” said Patrick Villaume, a fifth year Mechanical Engineering major. Villaume is one of two student coordinators at the GLBT Center. When he first came to RIT, the GLBT Center was just an idea; and since then, Villaume has watched it grow and has become involved in promoting the center as a safe zone for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight-ally students.
The GLBT Center and OUTspoken had a strong presence in the Brick City Café-turned-dancehall with tables set up where they spoke to students and gave out freebies like magnets, rainbow flags and condoms. The Rochester Victory Alliance, which conducts studies and tests on HIV vaccinations, also had a table where it provided outreach and glow sticks at the event.
Local and student drag queens were the designated judges and also provided entertainment during breaks. The performance breaks allowed dancers to sit back and rehydrate as Samantha Vega, Jizzabella, Victoria Versai, Angel Broadway and Tasha Brooks performed. RIT alum, Samantha Vega, was the hostess of the evening, where she quipped with the other drag queens and participants.
“At a school you have to behave a little better,” Jizzabella, a second year Political Science major, said. “You can’t be as vulgar as you can at a club.” Jizzabella, who has performed at previous RIT Drag Shows, does not reveal her real name when she’s in drag. She donned a long black wig and wore a tight black dress when she performed Cher’s “Strong Enough.” She and many of the other drag queens were often seen dancing with the participants, both during and after their performances.
The evening ended with a mix of tired and energetic dancers when Vega announced the winners. David Yip, a graduate student double majoring in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, won best single dancer. Clint Miller, a first year Psychology major, and Jarod Salton, a third year Advertising and Public Relations major, won in the couple category. Jasmine Tompkins, a second year Mechanical Engineering Technology major; Sadé Holley, a second year Psychology major; Deirdesha Wint, a third year Political Science major and Jesica Pichardo, a first year student at Monroe Community College, won for best group. The program ended with the drag queens joining the participants and dancing to “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls.
For more information about the GLBT Center, go to SAU-A452 or visit http://campuslife.rit.edu/GLBT. For more information about AIDS Care, visit http://acrochester.org.