by Denise Reich
You’re walking down the street, or through a train station, or in a store, when someone next to you suddenly breaks away from the aisle and begins to dance. Flash mob!
What is a flash mob? It depends who you ask. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it is “a group of people summoned (as by e-mail or text message) to a designated location at a specified time to perform an indicated action before dispersing.”
Flash Mob America, one of the leading flash mob organizing companies, states that their goal is to “create joy thru surprise.” In practice, a dance flash mob involves random individuals getting together to put on an impromptu performance in a public space. Typically, one or two people start the dance, surprising those around them, and are joined by other members of the “mob.” Flash mobs have been staged in shopping malls, state fairs, parade grounds, corporate dinners, train stations, and everywhere in between.
Beyond all of the definitions, flash mobs are a really inclusive, fantastic form of dance. Here are five reasons why.
1. Flash mobs are inclusive.
What makes flash mobs stand out from other forms of dance are their accessibility and inclusiveness. Dancers typically encompass wide ranges of age, ability, gender, ethnicity and dance ability. Professionals often share the stage with those who have never danced in front of a live audience before. Why? While some mobs do have age limits – typically 18 or 21, if a performance is taking place in a bar or club – the vast majority are open to anyone who wants to sign up. There aren’t any auditions, and everyone, regardless of their skill level, is welcome to participate.
Most flash mob dances are taught via instructional videos posted on YouTube. This means that dancers have as much time to practice as they need and can work at their own personal pace. Since many of these tutorials give descriptive spoken instructions (there are unfortunately some exceptions to this), partially sighted or blind dancers can follow along, and Deaf or hearing impaired dancers can subtitle the videos with accessibility software. Dancers with disabilities are encouraged to modify the choreography as needed. In addition, at in-person flash mob rehearsals, the teachers and other dancers will always help anyone who needs assistance learning the dance or developing adaptive moves.
Even when flash mobs got a slick Hollywood makeover, with the 2011 Fox-TV series Mobbed, this inclusiveness was maintained. The corps of “mobbers” on the show was perhaps one of the most diverse and body-positive ensembles ever to hit prime time. People of size, seniors, children and individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds were all featured.
2. Flash mobs are free, unlike your local dance class.
Flash mobs tend to be more economically accessible than organized dance classes. There is never any charge to participate, and any specific wardrobe needed, such as matching t-shirts, might be provided. For many mobs, dancers do need a computer with Internet access in order to register and view the practice videos, but even this hurdle is not insurmountable. Most every mob also has an in-person rehearsal beforehand, so a dancer without computer access could ostensibly show up, register on site and learn the choreography then and there.
3. Flash mobs give you confidence.
Let’s face it; even if you have 50 of your closest friends with you, it takes courage to break out into a dance in a random public place. Flash mobs give you the support to do that. Such confidence can carry over into a lot of other areas of life.
4. Flash mobs can help raise awareness.
Numerous charitable and social organizations, such as the Trevor Project, have used flash mobs to draw attention to their campaigns. One Billion Rising, a worldwide movement to end violence against women and girls, even used dance flash mobs as the vehicle for a global action. On February 14th, 2013, activists in over 200 countries performed the One Billion Rising dance to the song “Break the Chain.”
5. Flash mobs can make you love dancing.
Were you a bunhead or a casual dancer? Did your dance teachers make Abby Lee Miller look like Heidi? Were your recital costumes embarrassing? Did you leave dance injured, burned out or disillusioned? Did you try a dance class, only to be intimidated by the experience? Flash mobs can change all that and make you fall in love with dance again. Nobody’s going to criticize the way you dance at a mob. They’re simply going to support you. You’re in a public place and you’re dancing…for the sheer joy of it. Others are joining you in your happiness. Everyone can get behind that.
Denise Reich is an Italian-born, USA-raised freelance writer. She regularly writes reviews for Shameless and contributed an essay, “The Other Side,” to the She’s Shameless anthology. Her writing has appeared in publications in America, Canada, South Africa and Bermuda. Denise is a gold-medal winning racewalker, a classically trained dancer, a frequent 5K race participant and an aerialist. She performs in various media events and was a featured dancer on the TV show Mobbed.