Flash Mobs

Imagine yourself sitting quietly at the mall food court minding your own business. Someone just stands up and begins to sing, a guitarist starts playing, and someone starts swaying to the music. What do you do? Leave? No, no! Stay and enjoy the show! You’re in the midst of a flash mob!

These spontaneous outbursts of song, music, or dance are fascinating for many reasons. First, they’re a surprise to everyone not part of the show, they are mostly always upbeat, and they just make you feel good. Even watching them on Facebook or YouTube puts a smile on your face. Watch a few and see if you don’t end up smiling by the end.

Flash mobs are a fairly recent phenomenon. The first one was in Manhattan in 2003, and they’ve been showing up all over the world ever since. From train stations in Europe, college campuses, grocery stores, malls, and as surprises for weddings, reunions – basically anywhere people gather.

A flash mob is supposed to look spontaneous, but of course requires substantial pre-planning, depending on the number of participants and size of the event. The Internet has many sites that offer suggestions on how to plan a flash mob (such as flashmobamerica.com).

The sites all stress that pre-planning is most critical. If you decide to set one up consider these points:

  • Select the best date and time for the majority of the folks who will be participating.
  • Decide where you’re going to perform. If it’s part of an already planned event (like a wedding), let the wedding coordinator or one of the family members in on the surprise. Otherwise, get permission from the location to stage the event. You may also need permission to use the music as well, depending on copyright laws.
  • Watch some videos and see how others create these events.
  • Get the word out via social media for volunteers to participate or send out a mass email to your contact list. I’ve seen calls for volunteers to sign up on Facebook several times.
  • Are the participants going to be dressed similarly or just in street clothes? One for Ohio State had the participants in various collegiate t-shirts, sweatshirts, in cheerleader uniforms, or wearing a school logo backpack.
  • Designate someone as the choreographer so that everyone knows their cue to join in the song or dance.
  • Rehearse – rehearse – rehearse. This may look spontaneous, but a lot of preparation goes into them to create something fun to share. And, let’s face it; that rehearsal time is also part of the fun.
  • Be sure someone tapes the event; you’ll want to share it after all that hard work.
  • Most flash mobs are fairly quick – two to three minutes. People stop to enjoy the show and, once it’s over, go back to whatever they were doing.

Check some of the most famous flash mobs on YouTube. You’ll probably find a few favorites to re-visit, such as:

  • The coffee shop: This one has young kids and teenagers with a few playing guitars who sing, “So This is Christmas” to the diners. They enter at certain points of the song or just stand at their tables or in the line.
  • The Hallelujah Chorus at the food court: This is a favorite of mine. One woman who looks like she’s on the phone begins as a solo and people all over the court join into the closing crescendo to the delight of everyone watching. These voices are amazing and it’s like being at a concert – they’re that good.
  • There are a few great wedding flash mobs on Facebook. One was a group of 15 students performing “Goin’ to the Chapel” for their teacher as a gift. Scattered throughout the church, one boy stood for the opening lines, then others, and finally five guitarists entered and as they finished, the group left down the side aisles finishing the song as they exited. What a wonderful gift to give someone. Another one on Facebook this week was at an Irish wedding where one of the parents surprised the couple with a beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

As much as I enjoy seeing these on social media, someday I hope to see one in person. That would be such a fun treat! If you know of one coming up in our area, let me know!



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