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Sports / Recreation

Dancing Ram: Band director a fan favorite

January 19, 2011
By Tony Phifer

With the CSU men's basketball team set to host ninth-ranked BYU on Saturday night, Joe Spina and the CSU Pep Band are ready to put on a show.

If you have seen a recent CSU Wind Ensemble concert, chances are good that you saw Joe Spina in action. Dressed in a tuxedo while guiding the young musicians through the performance, he is the picture of grace and decorum while on stage.

If you have been to a recent CSU men’s basketball game, chances are good that you witnessed the other side of Spina. Dressed in a coat and tie and wearing his Ram pride on his sleeve, Spina becomes CSU’s Dancing Band Man.

“It all just kind of comes to me,” Spina said. “I just let myself loose, and whatever happens, happens.”

Fan favorite

What generally happens is series of wildly enthusiastic dances as Spina directs the CSU Pep Band. His madcap gyrations have become a crowd favorite at Moby Arena, often drawing fans’ attention away from the action on the court.

“This is Joe’s own thing, and he has turned his dancing into a big hit,” said Ben Chulick, director of marketing and sales for the athletic department. “He really gets the crowd going. We love it.”

Dancing, directing since high school

Spina, a second-year CSU graduate student who grew up in New Jersey, first became involved with marching bands and pep bands in middle school and high school. He was a drum major in both high school and college – and that’s when he first started dancing during games.

“It has always been my philosophy that the marching band or pep band is the center of the excitement of the game, other than the game itself, and one day I just started dancing,” he said. “The crowd seemed to like it, and I just kind of ran with it.”

New video screens have added fans

Spina, who co-directs the pep band with Chris Krueger, first started dancing at CSU games last season. Nearby fans noticed his enthusiastic dance steps and cheered him on.

This season, CSU installed high-definition video screens on the scoreboard at Moby Arena. As a result, Spina’s dances are now on display for everyone in attendance.

Rams coach is a Spina fan

During one recent game, Spina truly let himself go, tossing his jacket and tie into the stands and drawing huge cheers from the crowd. Among those admiring his routine was Rams coach Tim Miles, who clapped enthusiastically at the end of Spina’s performance.

“Joe is awesome,” Miles said. “When he starts his routine – off with the coat, off with the tie – it’s hilarious. He’s having a great time, and that’s what people should be doing. He’s this highly energetic guy who has this unbridled joy, and I think that’s what Colorado State basketball should be all about.”

Moby atmopshere

Spina’s moves are a big hit on YouTube, and Chulick is planning a dance-off later this season between Spina and Cam the Ram, CSU’s mascot.

As for CSU’s Dancing Band Man, he’s not sure what his next routine will include. He never practices his moves, preferring to let the game and the music provide inspiration. All he knows is he loves his work.

“Our pep band’s love of athletics, the sheer excitement they feel at the games, is very genuine,” he said. “When I watch games on ESPN, I don’t see many schools that have the same warm experience that we have in Moby. Not to say that we’ve arrived, but we’re definitely on the road to creating an environment that’s second to none.”

Rams face big test vs. BYU

Spina and the pep band are expected to perform at 7 p.m. Saturday when the Rams host ninth-ranked BYU in one of the biggest games of the year. The Cougars feature one of the nation’s premier players in senior guard Jimmer Fredette, and fans have a rare opportunity to see a Top 10 team in Fort Collins. This will also be CSU’s last scheduled home game against long-time rival BYU, which is leaving the Mountain West Conference at the end of the school year to join the West Coast Conference.

It's a White Out!

Fans are encouraged to wear white in support of RamStrength’s ongoing fight against cancer. The first 2,000 fans to enter the gates will receive a free white RamStrength T-shirt, courtesy of The Mtn. Tickets are available online, at the McGraw Center ticket office or by calling (970) 491-7267.