Getting the Party Started Part 2: Tips from the DJ

Last time we had dance teacher Annemarie offer her insights into how to encourage people to get moving. Continuing our two-part series on creating great party atmosphere, we could think of no better vendor to shine the spotlight on than Jason Amarante of BIG FUN Disc Jockeys

Photo Credit: Nicole Anne Robbins


At the first wedding we did with Jason, our clients were leaning towards not having a DJ since they couldn't imagine their friends and family dancing. With Jason at the turntables though, every single guest was out on the dance floor, and they didn't want to stop even at the end of the night!

Photo Credit: Tim Sohn Studios







Let's get to know Jason a little more, and find out his secrets to getting the party started.

Quick Q's
Best Meal: homemade Portuguese-style chicken & rice dish prepared by my grandmother.
Best present someone has gotten you: my family threw a "celebrity-style" comedy roast for my birthday last year and invited a bunch of close friends. It was easily the best gift anyone has ever given me!
Favorite place to be: on the island of San Jorge, in the Azores, Portugal.
What do H&T stand for to you? two instruments you'd likely hear on a Motown song: harmonica & tambourine. 

About Your Craft
What inspired you to be a DJ? 
First and foremost, my life-long passion for music. I come from a large family that instilled a love of music from a very early age. My mom said I was banging on pots and pans in the kitchen and humming along to Hall & Oats in the car before I could even talk. That love of music took me on a journey which has provided me with opportunities to travel the country in a marching band, play piano at the House of Blues, and DJ for large crowds of people. Becoming a DJ was a natural progression for me, as I love the art of selecting playlists and playing them for a crowd. There's a special relationship that the DJ has with the dance floor, a feeling you get when you're feeding off the crowd's energy and the crowd is feeding off of yours. It's truly an amazing experience. It's what keeps me out there weekend after weekend, playing for diverse groups of people in all sorts of cool venues!


What's your favorite mood music for cocktail hour? 
This really depends on the demographic of the crowd. For many folks, some tasteful 40s-60s vocal jazz (e.g. Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald) really does the trick. While for others, something more contemporary really works the cocktail room - like modern acoustic rock. In the end, it really comes down to what will put that particular crowd at ease and make them feel like they're part of something unique and special, whether that be Jimmy Durante or Jason Mraz.  


Photo Credit: Tim Sohn Studios


What in your experience is the best way to let guests know that it's time to dance? 
That's an easy one: turning off the house lights!

Do you have a favorite couple's first dance song? 
I'm a huge Stevie Wonder fan, so I'd have to go with "Overjoyed" or "My Cherie Amour"! 

If the crowd seems shy or reluctant, how do you as the DJ or MC get them out of their shells? 
If I'm faced with a shy or reluctant crowd, I'll seek out the guests who seem to be the most fun and willing to let loose and I'll adjust my playlist to target them. I figure, if I can get the more sociable and outgoing folks participating, then hopefully, they'll attract the more reserved guests to the dance floor eventually.

Photo Credit: Tim Sohn Studios

When the crowd is starting to look a little tired, what's the best remedy? 
If I've been playing some really up-tempo music and the energy level begins to dip a bit, I'll switch up the genre or tempo completely on the crowd. You've got to keep things fresh out on the dance floor at all times in order to prevent ear fatigue and keep folks interested. It's actually my job to anticipate when the crowd needs a jolt of something new, and kicking in a song that's instantly recognizable, but different from the last tune, usually does the trick. 

What's your personal anthem? 
"September" by Earth, Wind & Fire. It's a timeless track and you can't touch a chorus like that! 

What philosophy do you use to guide your work? 
Rely on your instincts. When you've done as many gigs as I have, you've got to trust your gut when you’ve got a packed dance floor and it’s time to mix in the next song. And more importantly, do whatever it takes to make your clients happy. In the end, your reputation is everything in this business.  

Do you have openings for 2013/2014? 
I have a few open dates, but they're definitely filling up fast. I turn away a lot of potential gigs just because I'm so busy these days. 

What's the best way to reach you? 
I can be reached at jason@bigfundj.com or info@amarante-music.com. Please also check out www.bigfundj.com for more information (bio, equipment, rates, events, press)!


Getting the Party Started Part 1: 3 Ways to Get Guests Dancing at Your Wedding



Hello Honeys!

We often hear our couples express unsureness about whether or not their guests are "a dancing crowd". Nothing is less festive to imagine than an empty dance floor. We've asked guest blogger and friend Annemarie (Ree) Estess from The 8 Count (www.the8count.comto give us some tips on getting your guests dancing! Take it away Ree!


Photo credit: Alvaro Ponce 2012


Envision your ideal wedding reception.  The flowers smell sweet, the refreshments are flowing, and the atmosphere is joyous.  As the music starts rolling, you and your honey boogie down on the dance floor, followed by waves of guests eager to dance the night away.  

We would all love for the reception to flow in this fine fashion.  However, most of us have born witness to just how challenging it can be to build the party momentum.  Fortunately, there's no need to fear an uncomfortably-sparse dance floor.  We have a few suggestions for getting folks out of their seats and ready to rock.  

1. Dare to draw outside the lines for your first dance.  

We're not advocating that you seek the YouTube spotlight with a flashy routine, but we do encourage you to consider a dance style that suits your personality as a couple and that you'll enjoy using beyond your wedding day.  If you're investing in lessons or choreography, you may as well learn dance moves that you'll have fun with for many years!

The role of the first dance, after all, is to debut as newlyweds and kick off the celebration.  If you're clearly enjoying dancing together, the crowd will follow your lead.





 
2. Encourage your bridal party and close friends to serve as "dance ambassadors."

Dance parties are largely dependent upon critical mass.  Once you hit a certain threshold of people enjoying themselves on the dance floor, the more hesitant guests will join the fun.  

Bridal party members are the highest-profile guests, and therefore the best positioned to attract people to the dance floor.  Hosting a bridal party dance session just before the wedding day can help everyone bond and get comfortable with upbeat dance moves to show off at the reception.  You can also breathe easier knowing that you'll have a trusted cohort of ladies and gents to break the ice and keep the party from falling flat.  



 

3. Hire a pro to show your guests the moves.

Oftentimes we hear that guests would like to dance, but they just don't know how.  Hiring a professional instructor to lead fun, simple steps at your reception is a great way to get novice dancers out of their seats.  It also catalyzes the dance party in a much more unified manner, as everyone is able to connect over the same moves.  (And no, this isn't limited to learning the Electric Slide.)

Bottom line: a lively dance floor is largely dependent upon having key people set the tone (and having a timeless music selection, but we'll leave that to the DJ's post). Nothing gets guests more excited to dance than seeing the newlyweds and their loved ones let loose, share joy, and celebrate this beautiful step.   


Annemarie has been teaching dance fundamentals for over a decade.  She specializes in helping clients utilize the social value of dance, recognizing that it is one of the most engaging ways to meet new people, let loose, and enjoy the present. To talk to her about first dance choreography or bridal party dance lessons contact her at ree@the8count.com .

And watch her fun promo video here.