August 6, 2013

'Light Em Up': A Monday spent mobbing

From 4-hour practices to the “robot powering down" move, there's a bit of commitment needed for a successful flash mob experience.

By Karen Antonacci kantonacci@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

The wait is the worst. The fact that we would perform a giant group dance in front of 500 strangers and countless hi-definition cameras hadn’t really set in yet during rehearsals.

It has now, and nervousness is manifesting itself in all the usual ways; laughter, advice and the “Does that sound like kids? Do you hear kids?” question that someone asks every couple minutes.

We’re about to flash mob.

Flash Mob America, the for-profit company that has organized this endeavor for the benefit of the kids of Camp Modin, sure knows how to reel in dancers.

Like many addictive things, flash mobbing starts off with a low level of commitment, at first. Just put your name here, your age here, your email here, and bam, registered!

The first email I received July 18 was comforting and reassuring.

“Don’t worry if you don’t hear from us right away!” it read. “We Promise We’ll Get You Everything You Need the Moment it’s Available.” (Capitalization theirs, not mine)

On July 30 I received the rehearsal schedule. Four hours of rehearsals Sunday at XL Sports World Saco and then three more hours Monday. The location would not be revealed to us until the end of Monday’s rehearsal. Then the big event would take place Monday at 5 p.m.

The email even had handy links to instructional YouTube videos, which I played while getting ready to go to rehearsal and consequently absorbed nothing from.

Despite my inability to pay attention to videos, Sunday’s rehearsal went smoothly. I entered the Saco gym to find the most women I have ever seen anywhere in an assortment of workout attire. There were 8-year-olds with glitter scrunchies, teens obviously looking for a hip thing to do over summer break, soccer moms and retired older women. There were maybe 4 guys.

On the other side of the gym were the professional dancers. You could tell they were professional because they seemed way more comfortable in their Spandex and spent their downtime stretching as opposed to milling about like we did. They would start out the performance and be toward the front. We would make a giant, moving wall behind them.

Our dance teacher was Joi, an energetic dance teacher with Flash Mob America who was very patient with us, her new hapless yet eager students.

“So we’re going to start clap-clap-clap left-right 1-2-3-4-1-2- then we’re going to do the boom-boom-pat, yes?” Joi instructed while wandering through the crowd of 120 women and girls and 4 men.

“What are we doing?” a woman next to me asked? I shrugged. She shrugged.

Turns out we didn’t need to know anyway. Joi performed the routine in slow motion, singing the lyrics and performing the motions. It was like the dance version of singing along with the radio in the car. Everyone mimicked Joi and the effect was semi-coherent. We worked through the second song, Fall Out Boy’s ominously titled “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up).”

We were gathered up and told to show up Monday at the same place and after rehearsing for three hours, buses would take us to the top secret location where we would perform.

Monday’s rehearsal was a bit more frantic, because now the performance was a tangible thing that was x hours away. We rehearsed backwards and forwards and better-than-the-rest-of-us dancers emerged. During breaks, people mingled outside in the sun and at one point, one of the better-than-most dancers pulled her SUV into the grass and led a mini-practice of some of the more confused mobbers.

(Continued on page 2)

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