Surprising Melbourne with dance

Jen Hargrave
Summary 
Have you ever seen a big crowd of people suddenly appear and begin dancing? A group of 400 people recently danced in Melbourne's Federation Square. Surprising performances in public places are called flash mobs. Many of the performers at Federation Square were people with a disability. Most were strangers to each other. But they danced together beautifully. It was a real achievement getting so many people together. It was also very emotional for the dancers and spectators.
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Jen Hargrave on 02/05/2011
A large group of people are dancing in Federation Square with their hands in the air and smiles on their faces
Flashmob

400 people danced in Federation Square. Image: Paul Dunn

It was just another day in Federation Square. City workers, school groups and tourists were wandering by. Then relaxing music started to fill the space. It slowly got louder. Groups of people dotted around the square began dancing. Slowly the number of people dancing grew to 400. By now everyone in Federation Square who wasn't dancing had become audience members. They were all transfixed.

This recent flash mob was directed by Kate Sulan and Clair Korobacz. It was part of a project by the City of Port Phillip to make YouTube videos. Rosemary was one of the organisers. We actually had to turn quite a few people down because 400 was our capacity, Rosemary says. About 60 per cent of performers identified as having a disability. 10 per cent were support workers.

The dancers were a diverse mob. The youngest dancer was three years old and the oldest was in her late 70s, Rosemary says. Some performers came as individuals. Others came with their school or workmates. Many performers came from one of 11 disability theatre groups represented. They included Rawcus, Fog and Templestowe Hall Drama.

One of the mob

Ryan got involved in the flash mob through his theatre company. Ryan has been performing with Rawcus for two years. He started dancing when he was just five years old. But it was his first experience of a flash mob.

Ryan says his favourite thing about dancing is the physicality of it. The movements can make a story, he says. They can be creative and abstract. It makes me feel calm because you're taking control of what the story is about.

Emotional impact

Seeing hundreds of people dance in an accessible performance around Federation Square was very moving. The emotion I felt caught me completely by surprise. As the dancers disappeared many other people nearby were overwhelmed. The first people to regain the power of speech were school children. That was the coolest thing! I heard one say. Did you see that too? It was so cool!

As a dancer, Ryan understands the emotional power of good choreography. At one moment in the flash mob performance the dancers all lifted their hands above their heads. Ryan says this move is full of energy like the sun. The dancing had a positive, hopeful theme. It matched the song, which was Hlj├│malind by the band Sigur Ros. Despite being native Icelandic speakers, Sigur Ros are loved for singing in a made-up language they call Hopelandic.

Great success

I think the flash mob was a great success. It was a real achievement coordinating such a large scale, accessible arts activity. Participants came from all over Victoria. It was also a real achievement for so many performers to manage to dance on the uneven surface of Federation Square.

Best of all, the flash mob surprised and delighted hundreds of people. It was a moment that we will never forget. It was like performing an act of magic.

Video

The video has now been uploaded to YouTube (opens new window).

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