Former Line Dance Leader Julia Magowan Swaps Stage For BJC Floor, Dances In THON 2018
Throughout THON 2017, Julia Magowan could be spotted at the top point of the Bryce Jordan Center’s diamond-shaped stage, leading a formation of committee captains and the entire arena in the hourly line dance she and her team created.
This year, Magowan swapped the stage for the floor and is dancing in the same 46-hour endurance trial that she’s helped countless Penn State students overcome.
Officially known as the Dancer Wellness Captain for Dancer Relations, the line dance leader is responsible for keeping dancers stretching and in motion throughout the event.
“(As Dancer Wellness Captain) you know exactly what you’re doing, because people have done it in the past and told you what worked and what didn’t,” Magowan said. “This year was a little bit overwhelming because I really have never done this before.”
The Philadelphia native and current senior experienced THON for the first time before she was a Penn State student. While on an accepted students tour the winter before her freshman year, Magowan and her family learned from their guide that they were visiting Happy Valley during THON Weekend. They detoured their scheduled route to stop at the BJC, and took in the atmosphere from behind the stage.
“It was my first THON experience, seeing all the colors and all the people,” Magowan said. “It was so cool.”
Magowan joined the Dancer Relations Committee as a freshman. She returned to that committee her sophomore year, and worked alongside friend and former Dancer Wellness Captain Heather Grace Thomas.
She applied to replace Thomas the following year, and was named THON 2017’s Dancer Wellness Captain and line dance leader as a junior. She enjoyed leading the seventh-inning-style stretch and interacting with dancers off-stage. After her final line dance as leader, Magowan said she “bawled [her] eyes out,” pleased with the routine’s success and engrossed in the emotional end of THON weekend.
This year, Magowan strayed from the Dancer Relations Committee to serve as the 100 Days ‘Till THON Captain, a position that allowed her to dance at the event. She then formed an Independent Dancer Couple (IDC) with friend Zachary Wilder. Together, the pair raised more than $28,000, according to Magowan, and were among those selected to dance by the IDC lottery system. The fundraising process exposed Magowan to a side of THON she hadn’t experienced as a committee member or captain.
“I think this has been a really rewarding experience, to be able to say I’ve actively contributed to THON in a different way that I haven’t before,” she said.
The hectic, back-and-forth schedule of a line dance leader allows few moments to stop and observe. Magowan said that although her last-minute packing process was stressful, she enjoyed the opportunity to stand on the BJC floor as a dancer and fully appreciate the event she’s helped make possible throughout her college career.
She left her old role in familiar hands — those of her roommate and current Dancer Wellness Captain Gina DeFrancesco.
“I never really told [Magowan] that I was even applying for the position,” said DeFrancesco. “I think I was just mostly inspired by wanting to help the dancers and making sure they’re healthy for all 46 hours.”
DeFrancesco reportedly managed to keep the lyrics and moves of this year’s line dance a secret from Magowan, who said on Saturday that she had yet to perfect this year’s routine.
“I should probably be practicing a lot more than I am…I like to freestyle it,” she said.
Though Magowan’s role as a dancer is more independent than her former team-based positions, she emphasized the feeling of togetherness and belief that has inspired her throughout her personal THON journey.
“That feeling of unity I think I will never forget,” she said. “I just always hope that I can remember how much hard work pays off when you really believe in a cause.”