Dance Marathon headliners have local ties


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Former “Saturday Night Live” star and standup comic Brooks Wheelan, a University of Iowa alumnus, will share the stage with dance-pop performer Kevin Valentine to headline this year’s Dance Marathon’s Big Event.

Valentine, who has a sister attending the UI and lives and performs in the Nashville area, said he’s really thrilled to support such a “fantastic cause.”

“I like to describe my music as … kind of minimal hip-hop, R&B with an electronic-pop sound,” Valentine said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

He said heading north to perform is a bit of a change for him, but he’s excited about the opportunity.

“I haven’t played a lot of college gigs,” Valentine said. “They’ve all been around Nashville and more in the middle of country. I’m looking forward to playing with people my age and really just having fun.”

UI junior Emily Eytalis, who grew up with Valentine in Bloomington, Illinois, said not many people in their relatively small town pursued their passions and aspired to fame, but Valentine did.

“Not only is [Valentine] a great singer, but he is a humble person with the world’s best intentions in his mind,” Eytalis said.

Although Valentine was never a UI student, Wheelan was, graduating from the UI in 2009. Since his graduation, he’s spent his time recording a comedy album and performing standup, along with a stint on “Saturday Night Live” from 2013 to 2014. 

Entertainment head and UI senior Josh Van Genderen said booking a comedian to headline the show was something different for the Dance Marathon organizers.

“This will be the first time a comedian has headlined the Big Event and is something we are all looking forward to,” Van Genderen said.

By having Wheelan as their most well-known act, event director Madison Traviss said comic relief would be a wonderful addition to the Dance Marathon tradition.

“A lot of people will be delirious and up for a good laugh,” Traviss said. “It’s a great way to see if having a comedian is something we want to continue in the future.”

Miss Iowa will also make an appearance along with returning acts that include UI Breakers, Intersection, Grandma Skip, and Take note.

New performers to the event will include Andhi, the Cedar Rapids Spirit Squad, and Diamond Cut.
Traviss said she thinks along with everything else, Wheelan’s presence will be nice change of pace for everyone who’s dancing into the “wee hours of the morning.”

“We decided that should be something we pursue because it could be really valuable to our event as a refresher to our 24 hours,” she said.

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