Off the Wall

Our little flash mob
Our little flash mob

If you ever have the chance to be in a flash mob…do it.

I’ve been participating in a dance workshop that will end in a performance, but along the way our teacher decided it would be fun for us to do a flash mob. Of course it would be fun! I’d been in one years before and remembered it with fondness.

We decided we’d dance on the corner of two streets in downtown Tucson during Second Saturday Night, which is a big event the second Saturday of each month where groups and musicians and artists perform on the streets for free. Tons of people turn out for Second Saturdays and the streets of downtown are hopping like a scene out of American Graffiti. Cars line the main road, bumper to bumper, windows down, music pumping, while pedestrians line the streets, congregating wherever an artist has set up to perform. An excellent set-up for a flash mob.

It turned out perfectly. More perfect than we could have possibly imagined. At first, we thought it might never have come to pass. We got to our corner to find it was taken by the local R & B Oldies station. But, instead of moving our flash mob to another corner, we thought…let’s just ask the DJ to play our song. He agreed! He already had a bit of an audience and a super loud sound system. What better way to play our song than that!

A good flash mob takes people by surprise. We were supposed to linger around the corner, not engaging with each other, but the DJ was playing such great music that a bunch of us started to dance on the corner. Still, no one knew we were all a part of the flash mob.

At 7:15, the DJ played our song, Earth, Wind and Fire’s Let’s Groove. Dancing to that song was a tribute to Maurice White, the founder and singer of EWF who had recently died.

Our teacher started the choreography (that we had practiced earlier), and then, one-by-one we all filled in behind her and danced. The DJ had a mic and acted surprised and kept up a funny running commentary which made it all the more enjoyable. A few people who were not a part of the flash mob, jumped in and did it with us!

At one point, about half-way through I looked out at all the people standing around watching us. They had that look on their faces that you always see with flash mobs. That recognition: “This is a flash mob! I’m a part of it!” It’s like they’ve won something. Phones were lifted up to record the phenomenon, no doubt to confirm to their friends or family that they really did see a flash mob.

The thing I like best about a flash mob…it’s like a spark of humanity. We are all going through our daily lives, often without much variety or spontaneity. Work, family, school…maybe go out to dinner or a movie or a sporting event on our days off. Nothing that out of the ordinary.

A flash mob is a bright light, something completely different and unexpected. If you catch one, you’ve caught something special and elusive. Even if you are not in it, you are participating just by being there, by watching. A flash mob connects us to each other in a fun and safe way. Whether it’s the cast of The Lion King singing on the New York City subway or a small group of local women in a dance class, a flash mob is a truly human experience. We are all together, having fun, laughing, dancing, singing, and it’s a good thing. Too often we see mobs of people as scary things, as rioters and looters. A flash mob is healthy–people coming together, if for a brief moment, for fun and to live in the moment.   

The day after the flash mob, Michael Jackson’s song, Off the Wall came up on my MP3 player as I listened to it on random shuffle. The lyrics spoke to me that day. It made me think of the flash mob.

“So tonight gotta leave that nine to five upon the shelf
And just enjoy yourself…

Life ain’t so bad at all
If you live it off the wall
Life ain’t so bad at all (live life off the wall)
Live your life off the wall (live it off the wall)”

For that brief moment of a flash mob, we are living Off the Wall. Off the wall of our normal, everyday lives. Off the wall and away from our worries. Not just the flash mobbers, but everyone watching too. It’s called a ‘flash’ mob after all. A shining brief moment when we can experience life Off the Wall. And life ain’t so bad at all.

Have you ever been in or seen a live flash mob? How did it make you feel?

1 thought on “Off the Wall”

  1. What a treat! I can’t imagine how it feels to be part of a flash mob, but it is deeply satisfying to watch one come together, do something wonderful, and drift away. This is a great post – and the video of the dancing is fine!

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