Sunday, September 30, 2012

Simultaneous Statewide Dance Flash Mobs to Support Public Education

We are working on organizing simultaneous dance flash mobs across the state of California on  October 31st, 2012 at noon, to support public education in the approaching election. Below is the message We've been sending to Dance, Theater, Kinesiology and Creative Arts Professors throughout the state. It includes instructions for setting up a dance flash mob at your campus or community site. Please join us and let the power of the people be felt across the state!


I’m writing to invite you to participate in a major statewide action in support of public education this fall—being organized in conjunction with the California Faculty Association’s fall action plans.

 My name is Eric Kupers and I’m an Associate Professor in the CSU East Bay Theatre and Dance Department. With a number of collaborating colleagues, I am organizing simultaneous dance flash mobs at each of the 23 CSU campuses to raise awareness about the November election and the importance of voting yes on Proposition 30 and no on Proposition 32.

I’m looking for at least one person from each CSU campus to act as a point-person in organizing your local flash mob performance. This person will attempt to enlist at least 7 other people to participate and will be a contact person for any communication that needs to happen between participants at all the sites.

On Oct. 31st (Halloween) at 12 noon, people throughout the state will perform a simple, accessible dance and theatre piece in public spaces (based on a set of instructions I am sending out.) We will do so at the same moment to demonstrate our shared investment in public education, the strength of our solidarity and our ability to organize creatively. This will happen the week before the election and will serve as a platform through which to educate our communities about the importance of voting to support education and other public services on Nov. 6th.  For campuses and communities that cannot participate on Oct. 31st, please feel free to organize a dance flash mob at a time that works better for you. And of course feel free to do both the 31st and other times! The more the merrier!

Would you be willing to be one of the participants and/or the point-person for your campus’ dance flash mob event? If not, can you recommend others for us to contact at your university that you think would like to participate?

I will be sending out a detailed set of instructions for organizing the event at your campus. You do not need to have any previous dance, theatre or flash mob experiences in order to participate in and/or organize this. All you need is a desire to support public education in California and a willingness to put in a few hours this fall to get the event off the ground.

Below this message I am listing links to instructional video, flash mob choreography instructions and other information for each flash mob to draw from. My hope is that each campus will infuse the event with your own campus spirit and personality. Then I will ask all participating groups to video their event and send the footage to me. Either I or a colleague will create a montage of dance flash mobs from the 23 CSU campuses and our allies at other schools, arts organizations and unions. This video will be uploaded to the internet and used as a tool of empowerment and further education.

Please let me know if you have any questions and/or ideas. We believe this event can make our voices heard and our presence felt powerfully across the state!

Thank you,
Eric Kupers
CSU East Bay

Here is a series of instructional videos for organizing the dance flash mob at your site:



ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF A FLASH MOB (from the Fall 2012 CFA Assembly) 

CSU 2011 STRIKE FLASH MOB (based on Occupy Oakland’s Dance Flash Mob)

Below is all of the information we can think of to send for now, balancing giving a thorough explanation of our plans with not wanting to overwhelm potential participants. There are holes in these plans—some that can be filled in by you at your individual campuses, and some that we will address in future communications.


·      Dance Flash Mobs will happen on a day yet to be confirmed at the end of October, at 12 noon  (simultaneously at all 23 CSU campuses and additional sites)
·      Participants enter the public performance area  clapping
·      Chants & Basic Dance Chorus alternates with “Education is…” dance/theater/music brief performances
·      All to a drumbeat of some kind (even just steady clapping).
·      Entire event is videotaped
·      Accompanying all this can be info about “Yes on 30 / No on 32”, CFA info, etc.

For more information on propositions in the coming election and what you can do to get involved, go to:

For assistance in organizing a flash mob on your campus or other public site, contact Eric Kupers at

The basic structure of the dance flash mobs will be everyone doing the choreographed dance chorus in unison (see #4 below) & chants a number of times, interspersed with “Education is…” pieces—which will be like the verses of a song, in between each chorus.

Each “verse” can either be choreographed beforehand or improvised. Each can include any combination you’d like of dance, theatre, music, poetry, speeches, or other performance forms.
The requirements for each “Education is…” verse are that:
·      it start with the words “Education is…,”
·      it lasts for exactly 64 counts,
·      it comes directly after and directly before repetitions of the dance chorus and chants,
·      it is watched and supported by the rest of the flash mob participants.

It is up to the point-person and any collaborators to decide who will perform the “Education is…” verses, what order they will go in, and therefore how many repetitions of the dance chorus will happen. You should know the order of performers beforehand, and if possible  should practice the whole structure prior to the public performance.

The “Education is…” verses can be as simple or as complex as you’d like. They are intended as an opportunity for participants to express personal, campus, community, state and global concerns in whatever way feels best. 

1)   Percussion and other music can start as people are getting into place—to draw a crowd (the percussion can include as many musical instruments as you can gather, but at a minimum should have one person dedicated to keeping clapping or stomping going.)
2)   Ideally set up in a formation of  either a rectangular or semi-circle grouping of performers (more confident participants in front and others spreading behind as far as needed.)
3)   Performers enter the performance space clapping.
4)   Chorus w/chants:
5)   Call and Response Chant (done 2 times)
Leader: “Proposition 30?”   
Group: “Yes! Yes!”    (raising an arm with each “Yes!” into a big Y shape)
Leader: “Prop. 32?”
Group: “No! No!”   (wagging finger)
·      Leader calls "5! 6! 7!  8!"
·      Both arms reach up along sides (4 counts)
·      Both arms return by your side (4 counts)
·      Reach right (2 counts)
·      reach left (2 counts)
·      Reach/Go up towards sky (2 counts)
·      reach/go down towards ground (2 counts)
·      Turn around to the left (8 counts)
·      Hitting and holding shapes (8 counts—counts 1, 3, 5, 7 are for everyone to hit and hold any shapes that you want for 2 counts, then on the “1” everyone goes down as low as possible to hold a shape with attention focused on center of space)
6)    “Education is…” Dance/Theater piece accompanied by quieter percussion/music in featured performance space (64 counts)
7)   Chants & Chorus
8)   “Education is…”
9)   Chants & Chorus
10)         “Education is…”
11)         repeat as many times as you have “Education is”  pieces prepared to fill the slots
12)          After last “Education is…” piece do Chorus 2 times and then…
13)          Repeat Chanting (4x)
14)         Exit clapping.

While it is ideal to have as many people participating as you can gather, this dance flash mob can be performed by a minimum of 8 folks – and if less if needed. No previous performance or activist experience is required.

·      Leader: At least one person calling out instructions and doing percussion* (could be divided into two separate roles if you have enough people)
·      Dancers: At least 5 people dancing
·      Videographer: At least one person shooting video
·      Stage Manager: At least one person to handle crowd management and any logistical issues that come up before and during the performance. It’s important to have someone who doesn’t have to focus on performing and can instead pay attention to any potential hazards and obstacles that will affect the event and participants.

I am particularly inspired by live music and percussion for events such as these. However, each flash mob can have it’s own approach to musical accompaniment. We ask that you keep the tempo of the music you use consistent, for greater ease in editing together footage from different sites.  Please use a tempo that is as close as possible to 100 beats per minute.

Here is one approach to counting a song’s beats per minute:

If you don’t want to use live percussion, or want to augment it with recorded percussion, try using music with a clear pulse (beat) and/or a metronome or drum machine of some kind. I have a recording available of  a simple drum track and me playing bass over it and leading the chants. Contact me and I can send it to you.

I have also found the iphone app “Funk Box” particularly useful for this sort of thing.

The point is to have a steady pulse that holds the flash mob together, but to balance that with being able to clearly hear any text that performers are speaking. If available, I recommend using a microphone or megaphone for speakers that don’t already have a very loud voice. Either way, plan to lower the volume of the percussion/sound during “Education is…” pieces, and raise it again for the choruses.

I recommend setting up two or three sessions (at different times) wherein faculty, staff, students and community members can show up to learn the choreography and structure for the event.  Here’s suggestions on how to organize these sessions. If you can't set up sessions before the day, then you might 
1.     Have everyone sign a sign-in sheet with phone and email contact information;
2.     Introduce yourself and have everyone learn each other’s names;
3.     Give a brief introduction on the way the flash mob will work and the statewide context for it;
4.     Teach the dance chorus and practice it a few times to clapping or musical accompaniment;
5.     Give an explanation of the “Education is…” pieces/verses, and give participants a few minutes to work together and/or think about something they could try through improvising on the spot.
6.     Teach and practice the beginning and ending chants.
7.     Go over (and perhaps write on a chalkboard) the order for the flash mob dance.
8.     Practice it as many times as possible.
9.     Ask for volunteers to commit to doing the “Education is…” verses on the day of the flash mob event and remind everyone of the logistics for the event on your campus.

Each site should come up with its own plan for costumes for the flash mobs. You can wear Halloween costumes, “Take Class Action” T-shirts, your school colors, and/or anything that will raise the energy of the event.

We recommend confirming participation with everyone who has stated that they will be part of the event through email or phone. And I can almost guarantee that everything will not go exactly as planned. (This is a large part of the power of live performance—we’re always making the best of whatever arises on the spot.)

I like to encourage my students and performers in works that I direct to “fake it ‘til you make it,” both in learning the choreography and doing the actual dance flash mob. Keep going, even if you feel lost. The great thing about contemporary dance choreography is that anything goes, so often so-called mistakes end up being the most exciting moments.

We recommend finding a location for the flash mob that is both high profile on your campus and safe. Some possible locations include:
·      in front of the student union
·      in any central plaza
·      in front of an administration building
·      an area that is not on a street, but that can be seen by passing cars and pedestrians
·      anywhere that gets a lot of people passing by on a weekday around noon
Each campus and group should decide how much advance notice you would like to give to others about the event. We encourage you to publicize the flash mob widely to ensure lots of participants showing up and to open the possibility for getting press coverage.

Please send video footage in as high quality as you can manage and as quick as possible to:
Eric Kupers
(Ideally you can post footage online at or share it with us through Dropbox or something similar. I’m trying to get something edited and up on YouTube by Nov. 3rd. You can also send footage by mail to:
Eric Kupers
c/o CSUEB Department of Theatre and Dance
25800 Carlos Bee Blvd.
Hayward, CA 94542

The point-person will be in charge of the following:

·       Primary contact with the central organizing committee for the statewide event
·       Leading the organizing of the flash mob at her/his campus.
·        Making sure there is someone shooting video of the dance flash mob and that the footage is sent to Eric Kupers as soon as possible after the event.

Each point person can approach this role in whatever way seems appropriate, given the campus culture and the needs and resources of dance flash mob participants. 

Some point-people might delegate most of the tasks that need to be completed and some might want to be centrally involved in getting most of them done.

At the most basic level, the point-person will make sure that the event happens.

Additional tasks that the point-person should do and/or oversee:
1.     picking a public space for the dance flash mob to happen in.
2.     organizing preparation sessions before the day of the event to teach participants the flash mob choreography.
3.     reaching out to faculty, staff, students and community members to invite them to participate.
4.     making sure there are at least eight people participating. (See full instructions for a break down of essential personnel for the flash mob.)