It can be hard to leave all of UConn’s traditions behind to go abroad. During this spring semester, I’m missing everything from One Ton Sundae to Spring Weekend. But at least I didn’t miss HuskyTHON! That’s right, International Studies Institute (ISI) Florence brought a THON-affiliated program to Florence this year: Florence Dance For Kids.
Florence Dance For Kids was created this year, through the help of Penn State University’s THON program. Unlike THON, which lasts for 48 hours, and HuskyTHON, which lasts 18 hours, Florence Dance For Kids was only four hours long, and only allowed children and parents to come inside for hourly shifts, completely different from other THON’s.
Taking place in the historic Palazzo Vecchio, the old offices of the Medici banking family, Florence Dance For Kids was more of a show for children than a giant dance marathon. Different groups from around the city showed up to entertain the kids. Most notable was the Florence Knights Star Wars Fun Club, which performed a 10-minute-long choreographed fight scene, consisting of several adults clad in Star Wars robes with lightsabers in hand. It was largely unclear what the plot of the fight was, as there were four different colored lightsabers and no clear good guy or bad guy. Their use of the force to make two Jedis kiss during the performance was disturbing at best, and an interesting choice for a kids show. But it was fun to watch.
A handful of childrens’ dance groups showed up as well, which the little kids seemed to enjoy more.
Rather than have the student volunteers from ISI dance with the kids, they had us choreograph and learn two dances within a two-week time span. By mashing together songs like Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” and Tones and I’s “Dance Monkey,” which the Florentines are absolutely obsessed with, we were able to make a dance that kept the kids on their toes. Unfortunately, the only time the kids were welcomed to dance too, was when they played Claudio Cacchetto’s “Gioca Jouer.” “Gioca Jouer” is a lot like the “Hokey Pokey,” in that a man sings different verbs, which the dancers have to act out. Unlike the “Hokey Pokey,” the verbs in this song are completely random and include things like to spray deodorant or to ring the church bells.
Although the overall structure of Florence Dance For Kids was completely different from HuskyTHON, the message was the same. Several children who had survived cancer came to speak at the event, as well as Zia Caterina, a flamboyant woman who drives children with cancer and their parents to and from the hospital in her colorful taxi. Caterina has helped immortalize sick children by asking them to choose a superhero alter ego for themselves to be placed on her taxi and in her comics, for after they die. In this way, sick kids can help bring joy to others even after their deaths. The slideshow of sick children and their superhero identities at the end of the event firmly established the need for the fundraiser.
Florence Dance For Kids not only helped raise money and spread awareness this year, but it hopefully started a tradition of fundraising for children with cancer that will last in this city for years to come. So if you’re worried about missing HuskyTHON during an abroad program next year, there’s still a chance you’ll be able to make a difference in ISI Florence.
Rebecca Maher is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.