DJs of UI Dance Marathon bring tradition and enthusiasm to the stage


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Hands flailing in the air, flashing lights dancing through the room, a mass of dancers thumping in rhythm to the pulsating music — the Dance Marathon DJs see it all.

They conduct the crowd with their music, and they watch as events unfold behind the scenes.
But the only thing they don’t see is an end to the phenomenon that Dance Marathon grew to be.

The combined experience of this year’s four DJs stretches back to the very first Dance Marathon in 1995 and winds through all the following years.

“It’s been awesome — it’s been phenomenal to see that many people get involved and stay involved,” said Jason Wells, also known as DJ NYJ, who started part-time in 1999. “I don’t really see an end in sight.”

Four DJs will stand at the helm of this year’s Big Event: Don Black, Brad Munford, Jason Wells, and Troy Williams.

“Honestly, they have been doing this for longer than I can remember,” said Ben Bordeaux, the events director of Dance Marathon.

Don Black, also known as Big D, danced among the crowd at the very first Dance Marathon and never went back — instead he became the DJ.

“The one thing I never forgot is how bad the DJ was,” Black said.

And these men take their job to keep the dancers dancing seriously.

“It’s our job to keep people motivated and moving,” said Brad Munford, also known as DJ InZane. “If you play the right song in the right way, you can control the crowd in a way.”

Their constant energy feeds into the crowd.

“Seeing those guys and their positive energy is always uplifting,” Bordeaux said. “There’s never a moment when you look at them and they’re not having fun.”

In the early years, Black brought in friends and grew a team of DJs that have returned every year they were able. This year Black is returning to the Big Event Feb. 1 for the first time in about nine years.

“It kind of became our yearly pilgrimage,” Munford said.

This year, Black is traveling from Lansing, Mich., and Munford is traveling from Kansas City, Kan.
“As long as they keep wanting us back, we’ll be there in a heartbeat,” Munford said.

Officials in charge of the Big Event are happy to have them.

“They’ve been our loyal DJs throughout the years,” Bordeaux said. “People always look forward to seeing those guys.”

The DJs are just as attached to Dance Marathon.

“If you go through one, you’re always attached to it,” Black said. “I still feel attached to it — I still feel like it’s my baby.”

The men volunteer their time in the best way they know how.

“We fell in love with what people were doing,” Munford said. “It’s our way of giving back. We all see it that way.”

While the crowd will see their enthusiasm, they may miss the undercurrent of good-natured competition between the DJs.

“We get up there, and we try to out do each other,” he said.

And it only makes them better.

“For me, it kind of pumps me up,” Wells said.

Dance Marathon continues to grow every year — and these men aren’t surprised. They witnessed the point of no return.

“There was a year when the switch sort of switched in Iowa City,” Munford said. “That was the tipping point between what it was and what it has become.”

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