Dance Genre Buzz – Flash Mobs

Splash Dance Flash Mob

Dance Genre Buzz – Flash Mob Dances

A flash mob (or flashmob) is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression.  Flash mobs are organized via telecommunications, social media, or viral emails.  Famous examples include people standing as still as statues, holding mass pillow-fights or ‘finger-gun’ fights, or, holding a dance.

Whether it’s a marketing stunt or to bring attention to an issue, organizers say that flash mobs and world record attempts are a new and exciting way to get your message across.  A T-Mobile spokeswoman said: ‘Dance brings to life the fact that there are often unexpected, wonderful, exciting things that happen that you want to be able to share’.

Tower City Dancing Flash Mob

The term, coined in 2003, is generally not applied to events and performances organized for the purposes of politics (such as protests), commercial advertisement, publicity stunts that involve public relation firms, or paid professionals.  In these cases of a planned purpose for the social activity in question, the term smart mobs is often applied instead.

First flash mob

The first flash mobs were created in Manhattan in 2003, by Bill Wasik, senior editor of Harper’s Magazine.  The first attempt was unsuccessful after the targeted retail store was tipped off about the plan for people to gather.  Wasik avoided such problems during the first successful flash mob, which occurred on June 3, 2003, at Macy’s department store, by sending participants to preliminary staging areas—in four prearranged Manhattan bars—where they received further instructions about the ultimate event and location just before the event began.

More than 130 people converged upon the ninth floor rug department of the store, gathering around an expensive rug. Anyone approached by a sales assistant was advised to say that the gatherers lived together in a warehouse on the outskirts of New York, that they were shopping for a “love rug”, and that they made all their purchase decisions as a group.  Subsequently, 200 people flooded the lobby and mezzanine of the Hyatt hotel in synchronized applause for about 15 seconds, and a shoe boutique in SoHo was invaded by participants pretending to be tourists on a bus trip.

Eurovision Flash Mob

Wasik claimed that he created flash mobs as a social experiment designed to poke fun at hipsters and to highlight the cultural atmosphere of conformity and of wanting to be an insider or part of “the next big thing”.  The Vancouver Sun wrote, “It may have backfired on him … [Wasik] may instead have ended up giving conformity a vehicle that allowed it to appear nonconforming.”

In another interview he said “the mobs started as a kind of playful social experiment meant to encourage spontaneity and big gatherings to temporarily take over commercial and public areas simply to show that they could”.

Flash mobs began as a form of performance art.  While they started as an apolitical act, flash mobs may share superficial similarities to political demonstrations. Flash mobs can be seen as a specialized form of smart mob, a term and concept proposed by author Howard Rheingold in his 2002 book Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution.

Dance Flash Mobs

A Dance flash mob occurs when people arrange to meet at a certain public location and time to carry out a choreographed dance routine to music before disbanding minutes later.  Dance flash mobs have occured in airports, subways, city plazas, streets, malls, and various other locations.  It has become increasingly popular as people use the ease of the Internet to arrange mass gatherings.

T-Mobile Dance January 2009

Flash mobbing is seen as an anarchic, freedom-of-expression act, organized by individuals, non-profits, and large corporations such as T-Mobile, which create dance flash mobs for various promotions.  These marketing events have gained much exposure and recognition locally and globally with viral videos.

Dance Flash mobs come in a variety of forms.  One of the strangest was in 2006 when clubbers gathered en masse for a silent dance – each stamping the floor and waving their hands in the air while listening to their iPods.  This well known flash mob, the silent disco was held in London in April 2006.  At various London Underground stations, people gathered with their portable music devices, and at a set time began dancing to their music.  It was reported that more than 4,000 people participated at London Victoria station.  This had an impact on the regular service of the system enough for the city’s police to begin crowd control and slowly clear people.  Since 2006, there have been several flash mobs in the London Underground, including subsequent silent discos comparable in size.

Dance Flash mobs have been organized around the globe, and some even occur simultaneously in different cities and countries, such as the Thrill the World Michael Jackson Tribute flash mobs held annually on October 25th.  Like many flash mobs, participants can learn the dance moves to thriller with tutorial videos 

The World Record holders for the largest recorded simultaneous flash mob was organized by ViSalus to promote their body By Vi fitness program and nutritional shake.  More than 50,000 people in 300 cities across North America broke out in song and dance at the exact same time.

View a video of the World’s Largest Simultaneous Flash mob by ViSalus in Hollywood California

The Guinness Book of World Records also recognizes the world record for the largest simultaneous dancing game routine.  It involved 10,730 participants dancing to ‘DJ got us falling in love again’ by Usher ft Pitbull on the dance Game central 2 Xbox 360, in an event organized by Starfloor at Palais Omnisports de Bercy, in Paris France.

Dance Flash mobs can involve any level of dancer, from beginner to professional.  Dance Styles are also celebrated with various flash mobs, as seen with Social Dance Groups, such as the New York Hustle Flash Mob, or Tango Flash mob group.

Dance flash mobs also pay tribute to various pop icons such as Beyonce, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga and a multitude of other celebrities, such as Oprah.

Catch a Lady Gaga Video – Made in Thailand in March 2012

Dance Flash Mobs also enlist notable choreographers and professional dancers.  Some flash mobs also pay tribute to legendary artists, such the choreographer Pina Bausch.

View the Pina Baush Flash Mob filmed in 2011.
Presented by PARADE and COCOR FILM STOR.  Supported by the National Center of Dance Bucharest.  Flash mob Choreographer: Mircea Ghinea

World Records

Dance flash mobs have exploded across the globe and are setting world records in the process.  View this list of dance flash mobs and their related world records for the multiple events.  (Courtesy of

Single flash mobs may incorporate different dance styles into their choreography, such as the mix of hip hop, disco and ballroom dance, as seen in T-Mobile’s latest promotion for 2012.  T-Mobile’s first Dance Flash mob from 2009 currently has over 34 million hits on YouTube, and the viral video craze has been instrumental in connecting massive online audiences through dance and the dance flash mob phenomenon.

Participate in a Dance Flash Mob at the NYC Dance Parade

Dance flash mobs occur in most cities, including our very own.  This year Dance Parade New York hosts a variety of dance flash mobs at its annual event.  Join us on Saturday, May 19th  for the 6th Annual Dance Parade and Festival.  Starting at 1 pm, flash mob groups will dance down Broadway, past the Grandstands at Astor Place and across St Mark’s Street into Tompkins Square Park.  Participate in dance flash mobs at the dance festival from 3-7pm.  We like to extend special thanks to each of the flash mob organizers participating in this year’s event.

Genre Buzz: Dance Education Series

Genre Buzz Source: Excerpts from Wikipedia

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By Dawn Paap, Editor for Dance Genre Buzz Series