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
Staff Writer

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Gradually, the whole plan was laid out in front of us. The performance started with a Black Eyed Peas song, and then transitioned into the Fall Out Boy song. On Pete Wentz’s second command to “Light ‘em up!” the majority of the “mobbers” would join the professional dancers to surprise the summer campers.

We loaded up on the buses and the excitement was palpable. Then it began to level off. And then it began to fade. We waited an hour on the bus while the professional dancers rehearsed last minute and organizers figured out where everyone would go.

About 4:15, we got off the buses and hid as best as over 100 people can, preparing for the 5 p.m. showtime. I was in the middle of about 20 people wedged between two buses and some woods.

Slowly, the cameras showed up. One on some sort of forklift contraption, one on a tripod, a couple camera guys here, a ...half dozen there. Oh my God, that’s a mini-flying camera.

Joi came over.

“Just to let you know, there’s going to be some CO2, cannon-type stuff, so if you hear it, don’t be scared and don’t run off," she said, pointing at a pipe-sized cannon in front of us and angled above our heads. I half-wondered it the CO2 cannon was actually motivation for us to run out, like if someone got stage fright and decided to keep hiding instead, the cannon would scare them out into the open.

Suddenly, the women started giggling and we all caught it, joking about what 380 kids heading towards us looked like and the possibility of running out and being like a deer in headlights.

It got close to 5 p.m. and then it passed 5 p.m. We were antsy with anticipation. Joi ran over and told us to slide up against the side of the bus so we wouldn’t be seen prematurely. On edge, we followed the orders in less than a second.

Suddenly there were voices, little ones off in the distance and “Pump It” started. Twenty of us, most of us adult women, squealed like little kids on Christmas.

You can’t not dance to the Black Eyed Peas if you’re excited, and that’s what we did. Huddled and mashed against the side of a school bus we jammed to the music, getting pumped for our big debut.

And then 385 kids were running toward us. We couldn’t see them, but we could hear them, like the waterglass scene in “Jurassic Park.” The video screen beside us lit up. We could see them. The kids were so excited, many of them holding smartphones and recording their run. If they could have seen through the buses, they would have seen us all break into huge smiles watching them on screen because we knew we were about to surprise them yet again.

Fall Out Boy started blaring from the speakers next to us and my group collectively readied to pounce into dancing position.

“Light ‘em up, up up!” Wentz yelled and we poured forth. I don’t know what the kids thought because the only faces I could make out were behinds hundreds of smartphones recording us.

All the anticipation that built up over the last few hours erupted into maybe, a minute of dance. I guess that’s why we rehearsed so much, because I think I was so flabbergasted, I relied mostly on muscle memory for the actual dance moves.

We ended with our “robot powering down" move and that was it. Done. We applauded, the kids applauded and then Ahhhh! They were advancing on us!

The mobbers quickly fell back to the sidelines as 385 7-to-16-year-olds came forward. I was still trying process the whole scene but my eyes registered a movement near the ground.

A little girl camper that could not have been older than 7 had planted herself close as the other campers went around her, her hand outstretched to me for a high five.

We high-fived and she smiled from ear to ear before being swept back up in the camper crowd. We loaded on the buses and headed back to our cars, everyone still a little high from the experience.

We had flash mobbed.

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