By Gianne Nalangan
If a group of dancers suddenly appears on Oct. 8, blasting a Madonna musical medley in public, feel free to join in as they strap on their cone bras and strike a pose. Organized by a group called the Bay Area Flash Mob, this dance routine is hardly spontaneous, but aspires to inspire.
The Bay Area Flash Mob first began in 2009 as a group of friends who shared an admiration for Michael Jackson and his creative dance moves.
Back then there were roughly 15 members in the dance group. Boosted by streaming YouTube videos and appearances on ABC and KRON TV, this little group has now grown to over 100 members and includes a handful of City College students.
Using guerrilla tactics this group of dancers continues to surprise San Francisco locals and tourists with song and dance in an effort to build a sense of community through entertainment.
Carole Johnstone, Julien Rey and Jacqui Magee are three of the five founding members of the group. Johnstone wants to stress that despite their love for dance, they are not professional dancers.
“You have your day life and then you come here and it’s just fun,” said Magee. “It takes away the rest of your day.”
Rey’s day job is as a software engineer but she moonlights as the group’s choreographer.
“I‘m doing this because I love making people feel confident and feel comfortable while having fun,” said Rey.
Providing simplified steps and hours of rehearsal, the organizers encourage people of all ages and ability to participate.
“We even had a pregnant woman dance with us during the Michael Jackson flash mob,” said Magee.
“No one is judging you. Everyone is seriously out there to go out and be as silly as possible,” said Johnstone. “[We] are not a serious group, it’s really supposed to be about fun and making new friends. Don’t be afraid of it, just come on down and dance. There is a primal response to dancing in unison that triggers everyone to enjoy it.”
According to City College anthropology professor Matthew Kennedy, dance is a form of symbolism, distinguishable amongst cultures, like the fashion trends of the Harajuku Girls of Japan or the religious figures found all over Vatican City.
Kennedy gave the example of Indonesia where the Balinese people share knowledge of a particular cultural dance. Ritual dances are performed for religious purposes or used to tell stories.
But not a lot of people are familiar with dances throughout U.S. history, says Carole Johnstone, one of the Bay Area Flash Mob organizers.
“[Today], nobody remembers any popular ballets,” said Johnstone. “But everybody knows ‘Vogue’ by Madonna and everybody recognizes Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’.”
The Bay Area Flash Mob has been practicing the Madonna Medley twice a week in various dance studios since September and offers online tutorials on their website to those who cannot attend practice sessions.
The flash mobs are scheduled for Oct. 8 at the Ferry Plaza, Union Square, Dolores Park, and the Castro.
In celebration of Fleet Week performances will randomly occur that day between noon and 6:00