A coconut bra and grass skirt helped 18-year-old Geoffrey Josefowicz fit in during his first-ever dance marathon at South Glens Falls High School on Saturday afternoon.
Carefree abandon, not usually seen in high school boys, marked his lively bounce in front of a panel of judges and hundreds of onlookers in the gymnasium, surrounded by a pounding, continuous beat. For a few seconds, Josefowicz and two similarly dressed male classmates strutted their stuff as part of the afternoon’s costume party competition, before dancing off and the next in a long line of competitors enjoyed their moment.
“The music got me pumping,” said Josefowicz a few minutes after stealing the spotlight with his costume, which was now missing the coconut bra.
Catching his breath in a hallway, while a heavy flow of dancers walked by, he was still feeling good after seven hours of dancing the night before. He hadn’t gone to sleep until 2 a.m., when student dancers retreated to their assigned rooms in the high school for a few hours of sleep, and they were back at it again shortly after 7 a.m.
“It’s great,” he said of the 36th annual South High Marathon Dance.
This attitude is very familiar to Kara Dudley, a South Glens Falls resident who volunteers at the event and has a son anxious to be old enough to join the high school dancers. Twenty-one years ago, she danced the night away as a high school senior.
“Being a student here,” she said, “it is part of daily life.”
Because Dudley’s son Dylan is not in high school, he’s not eligible to participate yet.
“He’s got two years before he can dance,” she said, noting that he still wanders the halls and tries to help out.
The whole affair begins about 7 p.m. Friday and covers roughly 24 hours.
The event has also changed a lot since Dudley danced the night away, including the venue. The gym she danced in, now known as the “old gym,” is filled with vendors offering services and products, including photos from the dancing, massages or haircuts. This was a far cry from the snack bar and haircuts set up in the hall two decades ago.
Additionally, the money raised by the event has grown exponentially since its inception. Dudley said her class was excited to raise $52,000, but this year’s goal was to beat the $395,352 raised last year.
Since the event was created, with 50 dancers raising $1,500, it has generated more than $3.1 million for local charities, organizations and individuals. Now, more than 75 percent of the student body participates, with each student required to raise at least $150. Funds are also raised by the vendors, who donate all the money they generate.
The 40 recipients of funds this year were chosen by student volunteers, overseen by three faculty members, including high school art teacher Tom Myott. He said more than 70 students are involved in reading applications for funding. The process helps open the eyes of the students to the world around them, as they learn about the various needs in their community.
“It becomes real,” Myott said.
This year’s recipients include Rebuilding Together, a northern Saratoga County group, the Wilton food pantry, people battling cancer, people who beat cancer and Matt Hardy and Bailey Wind, the survivors of a car accident on the Northway in December that killed two Shenendehowa High School students.
Myott was looking forward to announcing the funds for the recipients at the end of the evening Saturday, when he predicted there wouldn’t be a dry eye.
“You feel a real sense of community,” he said.
That emphasis on giving is what Myott remembers from his own experience with the dance marathon as a high school senior 27 years ago.
“I’m on the other side of the fence now,” he said, “but the mission hasn’t changed.”
Find out more about the dance marathon at www.shmd.org.