Nearly everyone has seen one by now, most likely courtesy of YouTube. A busy public space, people bustling around minding their own business when someone starts to do something out of the ordinary, maybe sing or dance. Suddenly, they appear to inspire someone else to join them and then more people do till you have a seemingly spontaneous performance of sorts happening in the midst of the crowd.
Anatomy of a flash mob
But how exactly do you coordinate that moment of joy aka a flash mob? There’s a global dance flash mob being organized right now in honor of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Dance the Dream is part of The Dream at 50, a series of events whose goal is to realize the message in Dr. King’s speech through the arts. Prague is participating in the event, which is being coordinated locally by the US Embassy. The choreographer in charge of Prague’s contribution is Rosťa Šrom. Turns out this is his first flash mob.
“If you have an idea, it’s very easy to create,” he said. “At least for me, the point is the idea.”
Šrom got a little help in the form of the song. Each mob will be using the same tune, Heaven Help Us All by Stevie Wonder.
“The song is very important, it has an idea and influences the whole process and especially the end,” he said. “The whole idea is at the beginning but the song shapes how the choreography evolves.”
One song, many feet
Since the song is the same, each country participating can interpret it in its own way. Having a unifying song in this case also helps the end product. The Dream at 50 is being coordinated by American documentary filmmaker Richard Karz who plans to put together a montage of all the flash mob footage. UNESO is also a partner and many of the flash mobs will occur at UNESCO sites.
Šrom already has his core group of dancers who will have three days of rehearsals for the big show. Since the goal of a flash mob is to get people to join in, Šrom needed to design the choreography to be open to spur-of-the-moment dancers.
Audience participation welcome, expected
“I’m used to working with both professional and non-professional, dancers,” he said. “I teach dance classes so that helps to understand the different levels. I’m aware of who the dance is for and have been planning it for this group.”
His pre-arranged dancers are a mix of professional and non. He’s says it’s not so difficult to get professional dancers on board.
“Professional dancers know exactly what you mean when you say ‘flash mob,’ that it needs to look spontaneous and natural and spread out – they can make themselves look natural,” he said.
While this will be his first flash mob, he’s already been approached by another organization interested in coordinating one, and he even has a few ideas of his own. But even with pre-planning, he’s still unsure what will happen on the big day.
“You never know who the audience will be and that includes the spontaneous dancers,” he said. “In a normal performance you know what to expect – both the audience and the performers.”
Embassy supports message of diversity
The US embassy wanted to be involved for a variety of reasons, the embassy’s cultural attaché Sherry Keneson-Hall said, adding that Dr. King has become a global civil rights hero and his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech doesn’t only resonate with Americans.
“It’s cool,” she said of the Dance the Dream plan. “And it’s a way of reaching new audiences and sharing a message of inclusion, diversity and in a way, hope. The crux of MLK’s speech was not a black/white issue but people being seen as people.”
I was under the impression these things were supposed to be big secrets, but turns out a little publicity is okay, and supposedly most people who know a flash mob is going to happen don’t bother to go anyway. But if you want to check one out in Prague, and even try your feet at it, August 28, 17:30 in front of the Rudolfinum. Look spontaneous.