DJ Dante brings the party.

By Kristen Wagner

You’ve been waiting for it all evening: those five iconic synth chords. Heads perk up. It’s time for “Thriller.”

Drinks and conversations are dropped and sore feet are forgotten as everyone makes their way to the dance floor. Regardless of skill level or age, the crowd breaks into iconic zombie choreography. The beat picks up and the crowd’s energy is palpable. It’s the very definition of a party.

These enthusiastic dance moves are brought to you by DJ Dante of Okanagan Wedding Events Group, also known as Alex Bird. Alex knows that when it comes to bringing people to the floor and keeping them there, there’s a lot more to it than simply pushing play.“ To have a good party, you need the right music for each moment,” Alex explains. That means a lot more than playing a few top 40 hits. Wedding crowds are as diverse as they come—how often do you swing dance with your grandparents and take shots with your friends at the same party? A wedding DJ’s job is to create a feel-good atmosphere and make sure each demographic has a good time.

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Royce Sihils Photography

You don’t learn how to keep all those plates—or in this case, records—spinning overnight. Alex’s journey towards the turntables was gradual. A lifelong musician, he has dabbled in many different kinds of music—jazz, rock and classical, to name a few—before becoming interested in electronic dance music. He has made occasional appearances DJing at clubs, but he quickly found weddings to be more gratifying.

“I’m able to make an actual connection with each person at the wedding… at a club, people don’t really want to interact with the DJ,” he explains. “It’s great to be part of the biggest day of these people’s lives.”

Alex makes a point of building a relationship with clients to ensure the day is as personal as possible, so clients don’t find themselves trying to dance to Frank Sinatra when their tastes lean more towards Beyonce.

The process begins months before the wedding with a discussion about the clients’ vision for their day. If the clients decide to book Alex, they fill out a form to consolidate key information and any music they’ve picked for key moments, like the first dance and the bouquet toss.

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Barnett Photography

In addition bringing the jams for the dance, Alex can also provide music for the ceremony and cocktail hour, MC services and event planning assistance. He can also suggest music for each part of the day, “but 95 per cent of the time, they don’t take my suggestions, since music for the ceremony and the bride’s walk down the aisle is so personal,” he says.

Until the wedding day, Alex regularly touches base with the clients. During those conversations he and the couple get to know each other, and he can tease out a more complete impression of their vision for their day—something that can’t be done just by filling out a form.  By the time the big day rolls around, he has a strong relationship with the couple, and they won’t feel they have a stranger—or a machine—at the mic during one of the most important events of their lives.

Machines—iPods or computers—may seem like an inexpensive alternative to hiring a DJ, but generating fun at a wedding dance is an area where having a pulse is a definite asset. “An iPod can’t read a crowd. An iPod can’t take requests, and sometimes requests are what keep the party going at the end of the night,” Alex explains. “iPods play, and then they stop.”

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Barnett Photography

A human DJ has the advantage of being able to observe the crowd’s behaviour and adjust the playlist to match their tastes. “Imagine going to a party with 170 people, everyone with different backgrounds and musical tastes, and you just have one master iPod for the night,” he says. “If nothing on that playlist appeals to a guest’s musical taste, they probably won’t get up to dance for the entire night.”

Alex’s massive music collection—somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20,000 songs—and his encyclopedic knowledge of it give him the ability to bridge between styles using “transition” songs. For example, if a group of aunts and uncles are tearing up the floor with swing or jive moves, Alex might aim to keep them on the floor while attracting new dancers by playing a pop tune with a swing aesthetic. Digital music technology hasn’t quite made that leap yet.

Regardless of your taste, or what way you choose to bring music to your wedding, one thing is for sure: music must be a part of the day. “Music is a pathway to people’s hearts and minds,” Alex says. “A wedding without music and a fun and interactive DJ could be very dry and stale.”